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Title: Tales of a Cruel Country
Author: Cumberland, Gerald
Language: English
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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.

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                              TALES OF A
                             CRUEL COUNTRY



                              TALES OF A
                             CRUEL COUNTRY

                                  BY
                           GERALD CUMBERLAND

                    Author of “Set Down in Malice”


                       [Illustration: colophon]


                               NEW YORK
                              BRENTANO’S
                              PUBLISHERS



                          Copyright, 1919, by
                              BRENTANO’S

                         _All rights reserved_


                        PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.



                                  TO
                         FREDERICK NOEL BYRON


     _Then came sudden alarms; hurryings to and fro; trepidations of
     innumerable fugitives, I knew not whether from the good cause or
     the bad; darkness and lights; tempest and human faces; and at last,
     with the sense that all was lost, female forms, and the features
     that were worth all the world to me; and but a moment allowed--and
     clasped hands, with heart-breaking partings, and then--everlasting
     farewells! and, with a sigh such as the caves of hell sighed when
     the incestuous mother uttered the abhorred name of Death, the sound
     was reverberated--everlasting farewells! and again, and yet again
     reverberated--everlasting farewells!_

                                                            DE QUINCEY



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

THE TWO LOVERS                                                         1

KATYA KONTOROMPA                                                      19

THE BATHS MURDER                                                      33

THE DREAMER                                                           47

WHEN THE GREEN ROSES CAME                                             57

PAUL OF TARSUS                                                        73

THE MOON MAN                                                          83

HOW HIS FRIENDS DESTROYED HIM                                         97

THE VICTIM                                                           117

TRENCH MADNESS                                                       133

LOOT                                                                 141

HOW IT GREW                                                          159

KATYA’S WOOING                                                       167

THE STORM                                                            183

THE MAN WHO GAVE HIS SOUL                                            199

THE STRANGER                                                         215

A LITTLE CORRESPONDENCE                                              235

THE DEAF-MUTE OF KILINDIR                                            243

LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI                                             259

INTO DUST                                                            283

THE GRANDCHILD                                                       311

NERVES                                                               321



THE TWO LOVERS

To
Frederick Noël Byron



The blossom of the lilac-tree gave a pulp-like sound as it thwacked
against her window, and curiously named Stephanie Miniati smiled to
herself as she turned in her bed and, placing a hand on her rounded
breast, closed her eyes in order that she might see Orosdi. For not only
did Orosdi dwell in her heart, but his big, black eyes burned in her
brain and lit it, and his sinewy hands were ever about her throat in
love-cruelty. She closed her eyes and, in imagination, summoned him to
her chamber. He came: not hurriedly, as an anxious lover moves, but with
long, lazy strides, his baby-face all smiles, his selfish, rounded chin
thrust a little forward. He stood by her side and then, in imagination,
she made him bend down suddenly and kiss her shoulder....

She sighed in a luxury of love, and “Orosdi! Or-os-di!” she murmured.
And she thought for the thousandth time: “I am the most beautiful girl
in Ajvatli, and Orosdi is the most handsome lad of all who walk on the
plain of Langaza.”

But as yet she was only half awake, and in her semi-consciousness had
forgotten her other lover who now lay in the church cemetery on the high
land above Ajvatli.

The noise of the sheep and the goats herding down the uneven street
brought her to full consciousness, and, sitting up in bed, the smile
slowly faded from her face, a scowl, almost a snarl, taking its place.
For she had remembered that to-day was the anniversary of the death of
her other lover and that, though Orosdi had made the thought of her dead
sweetheart sometimes hateful, yet fear of her neighbours would, she
knew, compel her to weep and pray at his grave and fondle the bones that
had once been covered with stubborn flesh. She sat and scowled; then,
suddenly, having taken up a mirror that lay on a chair by her side, she
smiled entrancingly at her reflection. She pulled back her lips and
looked at her white teeth; she bared her breasts and, holding the mirror
below them, looked at and admired the twin curves reflected therein;
then, making slits of her eyes, she looked from the corners of her
eyelids--looked roguishly, invitation in her glance.

“Oh, you dear creature!” she exclaimed; “how good of you to be so
beautiful!”

All morning she was at work in the fields whilst her wifeless father sat
drinking cognac in the village. She herself loved wine, but when with
Orosdi drank only mavrodaphne, the “black holly” that makes lovers more
ardent and leaves no sting behind. The plain, covered with vineyards and
mustard and poppies, blazed hotly. Banked roadways, infrequently used,
were covered with multitudinous flowers, flowers that were warm to the
touch and almost sickly with the sun’s day-long kiss. Stephanie,
stooping over her work, wiped away with the back of her hand the drops
of perspiration that stood gleaming on her forehead. The heat did not
trouble her: she loved it, for her strength was that of an animal. The
sun, the flowers, and the call of cuckoos made Heaven for her, and she
praised her Heaven to the utmost height of sublimity whenever she looked
at Langaza, white among green poplars, where her lover lived.

“How white it is!” she said to herself; and then something in her brain
whispered: “_How white they will be. How white they will be to-night, in
so few hours!_”

She caught her breath and bit her under-lip. Her cheeks paled. “What do
I mean? What do I mean?” she asked herself, hurriedly. But only too well
did she know what she meant. Her brain was thinking of her dead lover’s
bones, which to-night would lie in her hands--bones that, washed in wine
a year ago, had been placed back in his shallow grave at Ajvatli, and
which were as white as the cambric that comes from England. Her
religion, her loyalty, her dead love--everything that demanded her
acquiescence in the customs of her race--meant nothing to her: but the
opinion of her neighbours meant everything. People in small villages can
be very cruel. “Oh, yes,” said Stephanie, pitying herself, “they would
be cruel. Father most of all.”

With a resolute gesture she turned from Langaza, and bent over her work.
How wonderfully decisive and final is the thrust with which the
diabolically selfish can rid themselves of uncomfortable thoughts! With
an: “Oh! I’ll go through with it!” she put the little grave aside,
forgetting the dead youth’s dear kisses that, how brief a time ago, used
to run from her brow to her eyes, from her eyes to her mouth, and from
her mouth to her breasts where they used to cling and turn her girlhood
to maidenhood.

At midday she stopped her work and, seated on a high bank, ate bread and
olives and drank a little of the wine of Samos. I think I can show her
to you. The bank is covered with high grass and tall flowers--such
flowers as you will see in England any real June. So, of course, she is
half hidden in a little swimming mist of colour of blue and yellow and
green. Her skirt is pulled above her knees and you can see the thick
woollen stockings that do not mar the beauty of her long ankles. Her
dark face is sallow and red, her hair black; her bosom--you can see it,
for her blouse is opened two buttons at the neck--whiter than the paper
on which this little history is printed. She wears no hat, and her
blouse is a dusky red, the colour of her cheeks. Her eyes are pits of
darkness in each of which a flame burns brightly, almost fervently. An
animal, of course. But a beautiful animal, with a beauty that not one
woman in a thousand Greek women possesses. But is she Greek? She says
so. But is she? Some lusty Bulgar, perchance, raped her grandmother, or
a Turk, insinuating and cruel, crept to the bed of some maternal
ancestor. These things happen there in Macedonia, as elsewhere.

You will not like the way she eats, for her lips are not closed and her
right cheek bulges. And her hands, face, neck, and breasts are wet with
perspiration. A woman to be loved and feared, I think: more feared than
loved....

But she has finished her little meal....

She lay on her back, the sun smiting her, the sun of Greece that two
thousand years ago smote men to greatness, that burned men and melted
them and recast them as poets, orators, sculptors, writers of dramas.
She turned over on her side and murmured something, pressing her lips to
the ground, and smiling....

       *       *       *       *       *

Orosdi was drinking at Langaza. He was sleek and lazy, but his brain was
bright, and he was now busy purchasing two mules from his father. For
Orosdi had a farm of his own, and prospered as all physically lazy men
may prosper if their brains are deep and cunning and if they retain the
accumulated traditions of their ancestors.

“Ninety-five drachmæ,” said Orosdi, placing his plump hand on the thin,
vein-corded hand of his father.

The older man smiled.

“You are the son of my father,” he said, enigmatically. Then he added,
reminiscently: “He always began with half the price he was willing to
pay. We will talk of this to-morrow.”

“No, no. It is pleasant here. Let us finish the business now.”

He turned aside and called to the keeper of the inn outside which they
were sitting. A dirty creature limped from the dark interior to the
doorway.

“You have my bottle of whisky there, is it not so? Well, open it. And
bring two clean glasses.”

His father started a little.

“’Tis an old trick,” observed he. “You would make me drunk and then buy
from me? I would rather give you the mules than that you should do
that.”

“Father, I brought the whisky for you because ... because, well, you
know why.” He looked affectionately at his parent.

The old man, gazing at his handsome son, felt his eyes becoming moist.
An impulse overswept him.

“You were always a good son to me,” he said. “Let me _give_ you the
mules.”

“Father!”

“Well, after all, I’m at the end of my life, and you.... You know,
Orosdi ... but do you know?”

“Father, father!”

But the dirty innkeeper interrupted the conversation by putting the
whisky bottle and two glasses on the table.

“Come, let us drink,” said Orosdi, feeling a little uncomfortable and
pouring out the liquor.

They drank the spirit neat, and almost immediately the old man’s worn
face became flushed and active.

“Well, they are yours,” he said; “I will bring them to you to-morrow.”

His son rose and kissed him on the cheek.

“What can I give you in return?” he asked.

His father sat silent for a minute, twisting his fingers under the edge
of the table and looking on the ground. He darted a shy glance at the
young man.

“I would like only one thing,” said he.

“It is yours.”

“I would like you to come.... But perhaps you have already arranged....
If you were to come and sit with me to-night, I should be very happy.”

Orosdi’s jaw sank and his face clouded.

“To-morrow, father,” said he, “of course I will come. But to-night I go
to Ajvatli.”

The old man poured out more whisky and drank it greedily. He sighed, and
began again to twist his fingers under the edge of the table.

“Not to-night, then,” he murmured, with resignation.

“But why especially to-night?” urged Orosdi.

“Have you forgotten? It is my birthday.”

“Blast!... Yes, father, of course I will come. I will come three
hours--two hours--after sunset. I thought of your birthday yesterday:
you were a good deal in my thoughts.... But to-day! But you know me,
father. I _am_ like that. I have always been so. But you do know,
father, don’t you, that no one comes before you in my love?”

“You see, my son, I am old. To-day I _am_ seventy-three. And it seems to
me that the nearer I get to the grave the more lonely I become.
Sometimes I wish that we lived together ... that if we lived
together....”

“Oh, but, father--it was you who urged me to strike out for myself ...
to do what I could without hindrance--that is how you put it, father:
you called yourself a hindrance.”

“Did I?” questioned the old man, dully. “I forget. You may be right.”

“Come and live with me, father,” said Orosdi, impulsively. “You can sell
your bit of land....”

“No,” interrupted the old man, proudly, “no, Orosdi. This is just a
minute’s weakness: every one has these moments. You must go your way; I,
mine.”

He poured out more whisky and drank it.

“And now, Orosdi,” said he, looking at the half-empty bottle, “I think I
will go home.”

“And I will accompany you to your door. You must take the whisky with
you.”

Orosdi recorked the bottle and put it in his father’s hands.

They rose and walked together through the village until they reached its
outskirts, where, coming upon a detached, terraced house where the old
man lived, they parted. The old man closed the door behind him. The room
into which he stepped straight from the street was large, but badly lit;
it smelt stuffily of leeks. Lurching across the tiled floor, he reached
a little stool on which he sat, his hands clasped in front of him, his
head bent low. His lips moved, and he trembled with the ague of age.

Presently, feeling intolerably tired, he rose and shambled to a rug
lying in a corner. Casting himself upon this, he was soon asleep; dreams
came trooping to him, dreams of hatred of Stephanie Miniati who was
taking his dear son from him. How he loved Orosdi of the lazy smile,
Orosdi whose shoulders were so strong, Orosdi who could be as tender as
a woman, and as faithless.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun had already set when Orosdi went forth from Langaza to see his
love at Ajvatli, and he pulled his body together sensually as he trod
the long, white road. Frogs splashed and croaked in the ditches,
nightingales sang, a big moon stared. But he cared for none of these
things. The world to him was one woman: a woman whose kisses were
fierce, and whose clasp would not let him go.

His mood was a little bitter and cruel. Stephanie had played with him
too long. She would not marry him and she would not let him.... What was
the use of a love like that? It was not that she was virtuous: she was
simply afraid? After all, why shouldn’t she marry him? Her old lover had
been dead these years, and there was no reason for her ridiculous
clinging to his memory. It was true, she had been the cause of his
death, for he had given his life to Langaza Lake in attempting to save
her from drowning. But that was an accident: a happy accident.... He
smiled grimly.

But to-night he would bring the business of his passionate courting to a
head. The thing was wearing him out. His robust body was failing him. To
clasp and kiss ... to clasp and kiss and never really love! That was
play for children.

He quickened his pace and passed through the outskirts of Ajvatli. The
crooked village was full of black shadows, and even to him who was
familiar with them, the twisting, inconsequent streets were like a maze;
nevertheless, Orosdi could without difficulty have found his way
blindfolded to Stephanie’s house. His nearest way there lay past the
central inn, outside which many men were sitting, drinking. For a moment
the young farmer hesitated; then, calling for a bottle of mavrodaphne,
he flung himself down in a chair and peered around him to see if he
could discern the face of Stephanie’s father by the light of the one
lamp that hung outside the inn. Several acquaintances greeted him: he
replied to them curtly, almost insolently. Miniati was away, they told
him. He had set out for Seres in the afternoon, and would not return for
nearly a week.

He grunted his satisfaction, uncorked his bottle, poured out a glass of
wine, and slowly drank the sweet intoxicant. Almost at once he felt its
stimulating effect; it fired him and his passion, and, with a gesture of
impatience, he rose and made his way to Stephanie’s house. Having
arrived there, he knocked, but there was no reply. He tapped with a
stick on the high window, but no one came.

“Blast!” he whispered between his teeth.

“And don’t you know where she is?” asked a voice behind him.

He turned to see a wrinkled old woman who was bent almost at right
angles over a stick that supported her.

“No,” he answered, impatiently, “where is she?”

“Where should she be to-night if not with my grandson?”

He remembered. The old woman was the grandmother of Stephanie’s dead
Mercury, and the girl herself would be in the cemetery with the boy’s
bones. He kicked at a stone angrily, and, turning on his heel, walked
past the church to the graveyard above. At the open iron gate he paused
and looked about him. Not a soul was to be seen. Going down on his hands
and knees, he crept behind the diminutive gravestones until he came to
within a few yards of the grave he sought, where he lay prone, scarcely
breathing, his eyes hard and glittering, his upper jaw closed anxiously
over his lower lip. He could see his girl. She knelt at a very shallow
open grave; touching her knees was a heap of disordered bones; a white
skull, small and boyish, reflected the moonlight.

But Stephanie was not looking at what remained of her Mercury; she was
gazing into space with unseeing eyes, her arms by her side, her body
held loosely, dejection in every line of her figure. Once or twice she
stirred uneasily as though half aware of Orosdi’s presence.

He, cunning and alert, watched for his opportunity. A mood of disgust
might presently come to her. Or she might melt in tenderness at thought
of him....

There was a wind in the trees, and in the air the scent of lilac. Orosdi
heard the wind and smelt the lilac. The earth gave forth the warmth of
the day’s sun; it excited him, and his teeth bit more deeply into his
lower lip. His Stephanie looked cool and apart in her white robe....

       *       *       *       *       *

Less than a dozen yards away, peering over the wall was an old man whose
lips moved angrily. But he was patient in his anger, for he was afraid
of his son. He felt himself to be futile, and it was deep misery to
stand here and watch Orosdi worshipping that handsome and destructive
Greek girl: still, he must remain. He had a morbid craving for
self-inflicted pain, and the whisky he had drunk earlier in the day
twisted things out of focus. He would do nothing; he would only watch.
He would learn the worst.

After a very long time, he saw Orosdi crouch like a cat and glide like a
snake. He saw him glide behind Stephanie, rise to his feet and approach
her till he stood above her, holding out his arms.

And then a violent thing happened. Orosdi, having stood irresolute a
moment, suddenly stepped to his lover’s side, kicked away the bones that
lay at her knees, threw his arms around the girl’s body, lifted her from
the ground, and carried her away to the shadow of the little stone
building in which, hidden in rows of sacks, lie the bones of Ajvatli’s
dead. There was no sound save a small hysterical laugh of joy from the
girl. The old man heard them sighing in the shadow, and, like a knife,
the thought of his own honeymoon stabbed his soul. He muttered rapidly
to himself, and frowned. Then, pulling himself laboriously over the
wall, he walked rapidly to the graveside, gathered the scattered bones
together, and replaced them in the shallow grave. He did this quickly
but tidily, feeling his decency shocked, and feeling, as he had never
felt before, that his son was a stranger to him. He filled up the grave
with earth, and smoothed the surface with the palms of his hands. And
then, with a frightened prayer, he rose to his feet, made his way to the
wall and clambered over. On the far side he stopped to listen a moment.
But no sound reached him; the lovers were quiet in their bliss.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was nearly midnight when they rose, and all the guardian semi-wild
dogs of Ajvatli seemed to be barking together. Orosdi was full of quiet
happiness: Stephanie had given herself to him and had promised herself
in marriage. He placed his arm around her and began to lead her towards
the iron gate of the cemetery. But, very gently, she put him away,
saying:

“Leave me alone. I will see you to-morrow.”

“No!” he insisted. “You are mine now. What does it matter who sees us?”

“But you forget,” she protested. And as he did not appear to know what
he had forgotten, she added: “You forget what we are leaving behind. I
must put him away again.”

She walked towards the grave, he by her side. Simultaneously, on
emerging from behind a tree, they discovered that the bones had
disappeared, that the grave had been refilled, and that the earth above
it was smooth and tidy. They stopped, and her hand sought his. He put
his arms about her protectingly, though his fear equalled her own.

“He has gone back!” she muttered, awe-struck. And she stood gazing on
the grave as though hypnotized.

“Come away,” he said, trembling; “your Mercury may return.”

Without another word they turned and, panic-stricken, rushed from the
cemetery. At her house-door they stopped.

“What does it mean?” he asked.

“It means he no longer loves me. You kicked him. You kicked my Mercury
who was always so good to me.”

She looked at him wild-eyed, accusingly.

Without a farewell embrace she opened the door and entered the house,
leaving him alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

The old man was lying on his rug when his son entered. He had finished
the bottle of whisky and he knew not what his mood was.

“Two hours ago it was my birthday,” he said, aggressively, “my birthday,
and you did not come, though you promised.”

He protruded his under-lip and, seizing an empty glass that stood near
him where he lay on the floor, he cast it on the tiles where it was
smashed to fragments.

Orosdi, weary and a little afraid of what the night had brought him, sat
down and sighed.

“Do not be angry with me, father,” he said, gravely.

“You have done three evil things this night,” said the old man.

“One is not always virtuous.... But I will see you in the morning. I
must sleep. You also, father. You are overwrought.”

“No. I’m drunk. Men see truth when they are drunk. They see things they
dare not look at in their sober times. Your mother, who was a scholar,
used to say there is truth in wine. Damnable truth. Never mind, Orosdi,
my son. We cannot help ourselves.”

But Orosdi had slipped from the house, and the old man was talking to an
empty room. He continued maundering for a long time until, overcome by
sleep, he fell heavily on the floor and closed his eyes.



KATYA KONTOROMPA

To
Jack Kahane



Mrs. Kontorompa waddled into her large drawing-room at Hortiach one May
morning calling “Katya! Katya!” in a voice more shrill than a parrot’s.
She progressed rather magnificently in spite of her waddle, for she had
both weight and solidity, and it was not without dignity that, having
reached the window, she leaned out and surveyed her hot garden blazing
with colour. “Katya! Katya!” she shrilled.

“What is it, mamma?” asked a languid voice from the depths of a
luxurious chair near the piano a yard or two away.

Mrs. Kontorompa’s irritation vanished instantly.

“Oh, Katya, dear, I have just been speaking to your father on the
telephone. He said....”

“I know what he said,” interrupted her daughter. “He said no. He always
does say no. But I warn you, mamma, I’m just about at the end of my
patience, and either to-day or to-morrow I shall ... well, I shall do
something desperate.”

Mrs. Kontorompa’s most benevolent face assumed a look of anxiety.

“But what can _I_ do?” she asked, despairingly.

“Nothing, dear mamma. We have always known--you and I--that you could do
nothing. It’s not your fault. But papa is so stupid, is it not so? Why,
in the name of God, he sent me....”

“Katya, you must not swear. Besides, you have promised me not to.”

“Very well, mamma, I won’t. Why, in the name of respectability then, he
sent me to Brussels--Brussels, of all places--I can’t understand.”

Her luminous blue eyes, deep and tender, formed large patches of colour
above her very pale cheeks, and her pouting red lips, half smiling,
concealed her regularly irregular white teeth.

“Your father, Katya, dear--well, you know what your father is. He
blunders, but he means well. He thought Brussels would be good for you.”

“Oh, it was, _it was_: most awfully good. The Avenue Louise, mamma, on a
May morning with Captain Pierre Lacroix by my side--oh, _that_ was
heaven! Yes, Brussels was heaven, and I lived there among the male
angels--I mean the deliciously wicked men--for one very short year. But
if Brussels was heaven, Hortiach is hell, and I really do believe father
is the devil himself.”

Her mother smiled reluctantly.

“Katya, dear, you musn’t talk like that. At all events, only when we’re
alone.”

It was Katya’s turn to smile, and in the middle of her sweet smile she
broke out, impulsively:

“Father is a dear, really, you know; but he is so awfully blind and dull
and stupid. Fancy thinking Salonika is too wicked for _me_ to live in!
Why, if he only knew the things I did....”

She paused and her eyes grew naughty with reminiscences.

“Yes, Katya?” her mother whispered, invitingly.

“Oh nothing. I say ‘nothing,’ but I mean everything.”

“_Everything?_”

“Well, not quite everything. Yet I sometimes wish I had gone what my
English friends used to call 'the whole hog.’ All the way, you know.”

“Oh, do, _do_ be careful, Katya. You will be married some day, you
know.”

“That’s just the point--_shall_ I? Whom can I marry in Hortiach? Is
there a single soul good enough? You know there isn’t. Yet in Salonika,
only fifteen miles away, there must be scores of the most delightful
creatures. Oh, mamma, I _do_ love men, don’t you?”

“I used to, dear. But now I love only your father.”

“Poor mamma! But how awfully sweet for father!”

They sat in silence for a few minutes whilst the still garden hummed
with insects; the sun smote the flowers, and a trickle of water made a
tepid sound in the well close by.

Then, suddenly, Mrs. Kontorompa, having brushed away a fly that had
settled on her nose, turned to her daughter.

“I will persuade your father to let us join him in Salonika for a
fortnight. I will really, Katya. I know how to do it. We will go next
month.”

“Oh, you are sweet, mamma dear, aren’t you? I _do_ think you’re sweet.”

And Katya, rising from her deep chair and gliding to the pianoforte,
began to play Chopin’s Polonaise in C-sharp minor, crashing out the fat
discords with all the exuberance of youth. With her hands folded on that
part of her body lying below her waist, Mrs. Kontorompa sat admiring her
daughter: admiring this daring and bewildering creature who, only a
month ago, had come from a Belgian school whither she had gone to add
smartness to her education: admiring and loving her, and feeling that
she would sell her soul to be like Katya--eighteen, beautiful,
devil-may-care, clever, wilful, and so terribly worshipful. Then, Katya
having begun the great Nocturne in C minor, with its quivering and
mounting octaves, Mrs. Kontorompa rose and left the room to supervise
the mysterious workings of her Grecian household.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was quite early the same morning that Katya, white and wonderful,
left her father’s house and walked higher up the mountain to the side of
which Hortiach clings. She was in a mood of half-angry revolt, and as
she walked along a sheep-track winding among the rocks, she told herself
that if only Elise Deschamps were with her, they would surely find
something amusing to do. Elise respected the opinions of no one. And as
Katya Kontorompa’s mind was busy thinking of her friend, suddenly, from
behind a rock stepped a tall, slim youth, hatless, bare-chested,
carrying a flute in his hand, his black curly hair surmounting a face
that was at once grave and beseeching.

“Oh!” said Katya, half-aloud, as she caught her breath and passed him.

He, giving her a rapid, shy glance, walked across her path and made his
way to a shaded pool that even at midday is always cool and fresh.

She watched him as he, far off, sat down in the sunlight that, dripping
from the fig-tree above him, flecked him with patches of green and
white. She could just hear the low, watery tones of his flute as he
improvised with the careless ease of an artist. She had seen him thus on
several occasions, and, seeing him, had always felt a little thrill of
desire. She wished to love him just for an hour, to have those slender
arms about her body, to feel his curved, inexperienced lips against her
own. But he was shy and a little afraid. Yes, she was sure he was
afraid, for every time she had crossed his path he had hastened his pace
to almost a run, and had never once looked back to meet her inquiring
and inviting gaze. His fear of her spurred her on to an adventure with
him, for she could not understand his sexless eyes, and to her it was
ridiculous that a handsome youth should run away from a beautiful and
willing girl.

Sitting down in the shade of a rock, she half closed her eyes and looked
lazily at him as he sat by his deep pool of coolest water. His flute
still gave its music, music that was as free from care and all
self-consciousness as the song of a bird. What a dear, foolish and
charming boy he was! He could be no more than a year younger than
herself, and yet she could swear he had never loved a woman.
Loved?--why, not even kissed.

Though she felt angry with him because of his passionless eyes, she
could not help experiencing a certain yearning for him, a tenderness
that was half laughter, half tears. When, at length, he wandered away,
she sighed.

“Oh, damn!” she whispered. “The little fool is an abject idiot! Do I
really love him? I wonder.... In any case, I will have some fun with
him. If he will not love me, he shall at least hate me.”

Happy with her new interest in life, she planned her mischievous and
immodest scheme. Like all Greek women, she was discretion itself, and
the first question she put to herself was: “If I do it, will he tell?”
But this so necessary question required only a moment’s consideration.
Of course he wouldn’t tell, for, in any event, whatever the outcome of
her escapade might be, the story of it would be against himself.
Moreover, she would so cleverly contrive matters that it would appear
that the entire occurrence was one of the many affairs of chance.

And, musing over her plan, she walked rather rapidly down to her
garden-home.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Kontorompa never dressed for breakfast. In the warm days she
always breakfasted in a flimsy dressing-gown on the little veranda
outside her bedroom, and it was here early one morning that Katya,
looking very demure, joined her. She carried a French translation of one
of Joseph Conrad’s books.

“Good morning, mamma,” she said, “how perfectly sweet you look in that
pink thing!”

Mrs. Kontorompa, who knew very well that she did not look sweet in
anything in the world, smiled.

“You do say such nice things, Katya dear.”

“Oh, the coffee’s here already. Do pour me out a glass, mamma. I’m
terribly thirsty--and hungry, too.”

She ate bread, butter and honey, and smiled at two kissing butterflies.

“How nice to be a butterfly!” she said, munching.

“Yes, but why?”

“Well, a butterfly does just what it wants. It does not wait to be
introduced. It is so wonderfully unmoral.”

Her mother surveyed her for a moment.

“Do you know, Katya, you sometimes talk just like some of the women in
those French novels you brought home with you from Brussels.”

“Do I? Well, I feel like them. I’m going for a bathe this morning,
mamma.”

“A bathe! Where? Why?”

“In the little pool by the fig-tree. Because I want to.”

“Very well, I’ll come with you.”

“That would be lovely,” said Katya, “if I were selfish enough to allow
you. But you’d make yourself ill, climbing up there in the sun.”

“But, Katya....”

“You know you would, mamma. No, I’m going alone. No one ever goes near
the place: I shall be quite all right.”

And when she had finished her breakfast, she went to her room, put on a
big sun-hat, took a towel from her bedroom cupboard, and stepped very
silently downstairs. But her mother issued from the drawing-room just as
her daughter reached the bottom of the stairs.

“But you have nothing to cover yourself with--no bathing costume!” Mrs.
Kontorompa objected.

“Ah, that’s just it!” said Katya mischievously.

“What is?”

“Oh, nothing, mamma, my precious. Good-bye.”

And she ran into the garden, swinging the towel over her head.

There was still a little coolness of dawn in the air, especially under
the trees, and the freshness of the air and the hard exercise of
climbing up the mountain-side brought an unaccustomed tinge of rose to
Katya’s cheeks. The clear pool was waiting for her, and, stepping to its
rocky edge, she bent over a little and gazed at her reflection in the
cool water.

“Really, I grow more beautiful every day,” she murmured, pleased and
excited.

She knelt down behind a rock and began to undress, now and again turning
her eyes in the direction from which she expected her flute-player to
come. But when her garments were ready for taking off, she did not
remove them; instead, she sat down and surveyed the romantic and
picturesque village below.

Yes, it was romantic enough, she thought, but it was so stupidly
familiar. She knew every house, every tree, every rock, and if she did
not know every man, woman, and child, it was because she did not care
to. Yet, after all, people mattered enormously. The most seductive
scenery in the world was not romantic except in its relationship to
human beings. And even this boy, this flute-player, had a certain air,
an atmosphere, something of distinction and attraction.

With sudden impatience and self-disgust, she shook herself, and then
leaned over the edge of the water.

“Fool!” she ejaculated to her reflection; “sentimentalist! He is a
little nincompoop and you know it. You are going to teach him a lesson:
you are going to terrify him out of his wits.”

Raising her head, she saw the object of her thoughts issuing from the
outskirts of the village and making his way up the mountain to the pool.
He walked with an easy stride.

Hastily she took off her clothes, hid them in a cleft of the rocks, and
stepped into the water which took her beautiful body with a laugh and a
sigh. She swam about for a minute or two and then, calculating that by
now he would be near at hand--the intervening rocks hid him from
sight--she swam to a little narrow bay where the water was deep, and
where she was hidden from view, and clung with her finger-tips to a
ledge in the rocks.

The wrinkled surface of the pool had only just had time to become smooth
again, when the flute-player, very silently, walked to the fig-tree and
sat down in its shade. Almost immediately he began to play, and the
melodies he invented were very melancholy. Katya smiled with malice,
though she approved of and liked his skill.

“What a clever little fool it is!” she said to herself, as, giving
herself to the water and pressing her feet against the side of the rock,
she pushed herself out toward the middle of the pool and began slowly to
swim in the flute-player’s direction. So quickly did she go, and so
absorbed was he in his music, that he did not see her even when she was
within a dozen yards of him and was standing, the water reaching to her
waist, regarding him with wide, malicious eyes. She raised her hands and
brought them down on the water with a heavy splash.

A run he was playing broke in the middle like a thread that is snapped,
and, startled, he let his instrument fall to the ground. His eyes had
the look of one whose dreams have come true; it was as though he had
been evoking a nymph and she had at last arrived. Motionless and
absorbed, he stared at her, his eyes very round, his lips parted; but he
spoke no word, and something in the earnestness of his gaze--a look a
little unearthly, indeed, holy--made her, who had wished to frighten
him, herself afraid. There was no abashed look in his eyes, as she had
expected, no look of dismay, no hint of fear: merely an expression of
incredulity--the look of a boy to whom a long-awaited miracle has at
last happened.

Their long gaze into each others’ eyes lasted many moments, and as his
eyes did not droop under hers, but indeed, stared and stared
unflinchingly, Katya began to experience the shame of a child who has
been discovered in some wickedness. She had expected him, on her
appearing, to run away in terror and shocked modesty. If he had blushed
even, or had looked confused, or had turned his back upon her, or
exhibited any of the signs of awkwardness and shame, she would have
known how to continue the comedy. But he accepted her. Moreover, she
knew that some wonder had been expected from that water. To him she was
not human, but the spirit of the pool come at the bidding of his music.

Her courage and her impertinence deserted her, and, with a sudden
movement, she disappeared under the water, and swam back to the deep bay
where she had left her clothing. She heard him cry out excitedly, and,
with equal excitement, she swam towards the edge of the water, touched
the ground with her feet and began to walk to the shore. He was there
waiting for her, for he had run rapidly round the pool, and now stood
with his flute in his hand, his face full of ecstasy, with white teeth
shining in the sun.

For a few moments he stood thus on a high rock looking down upon her.
But when she had reached the cleft where her clothes were hidden, and
when he saw her take them in her hands, his face instantly changed from
ecstasy to bewilderment, and then from bewilderment to loathing.

“It’s you--you--_you_! You dreadful black woman!” he called out.

She raised her head to look at him, and saw that he was trembling with
anger. His brown face was yellow and distorted. He tried to speak some
more words, but his throat choked him, and his inability to speak
increased his anger so greatly that all his body shook like one
convulsed.

Raising his flute on high, he threw it into the water with terrific
force, and, turning, ran up the mountain side with a frantic speed that
had not decreased when she could no longer see him....

Pressing her white dress to her face, Katya wept and wept. She wept with
shame, with mortification.... She wept with love.



THE BATHS MURDER

To
Edwin Morrow


Before you had crossed the threshold you felt the humid air as it
stealthily assaulted your flesh, and the dank stone couches, some bare
and perspiring, others half covered with painted rags, gave the
impression of tawdry self-indulgence.

I have tried many times to determine precisely what it was about those
cavernous baths that gave me the impression of wickedness, and because
my attempts have always been unsuccessful I have been driven to
entertain the possibility that the wickedness lay in myself, and was
evoked by the semi-darkness, the drip of water, the lamps that flickered
but did not die, the humid air, the long treacherous corridors, the
dirty domes, and the soft secrecy of scandals stealing up the stair. But
why should these things, either separately or collectively, suggest
evil? I do not know. But they did. They do. And the little poisoned
glasses of cognac which, one by one, used to be placed at one’s side so
that one might sip before and after sleep, seemed to me lewd and
violently unnecessary....

In that place worked Aristides Kronothos, lean Kronothos, who, with his
lack-lustre eyes, his long, dangling arms, and air of patient
resignation hid, and hid well, the venom in his breast. A year ago he
lived in Soho with his wife and worshipped child. To their little
restaurant came a man of mixed blood--some Armenian, some
Montenegrin--who, with money and promises, stole Aristides’ wife and
left England for Greece. Kronothos, having knowledge of his lair in
Salonika, sold his business and followed. He loved desperately and hated
desperately. But the man of mixed blood was well protected, and seemed
out of reach of all revenge, for though it is true that Kronothos,
almost any day, might have slit his throat in full view of the street
and its people, he had no desire to be caught and punished. He felt
greatly, profoundly; but he did not feel tragically. His skin was of
immeasurable value to himself.

So he used to go about his work in those cave-like baths feeling
thwarted, and I am told that, on slack days, he would sit, chin in hand,
brooding, his unfocused eyes looking into spaceless space, his long,
lean neck jutting ostrich-like from his towel-robe, his nervy fingers
twitching.

He was a good worker. Rompapas told me that. Rompapas always insisted to
me that Aristides Kronothos had an almost extravagant sense of duty. For
example, he would stay after hours hosing and even scrubbing the filthy
corridors, trying to vanquish their musty smell; and so constant and
devoted was he that in time he was entrusted with the keys of the great
watery and wandering place, and would lock up two or three hours before
midnight, and dismally seek his dismal room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Half drunk and full of vanity, the man of mixed blood--George Georges
was his fantastic name--plunged out of the Olympos Hotel and bawled for
a _gharry_. At his command three came. His great, hulking body sank into
the first and bent its crazy framework into a capital U.

The city had just lit its myriad lights, and the sky was like purple
velvet. Georges gave it a contemptuous glance, and as the driver turned
round for orders, his temporary master waved a fat hand in the air and
grunted:

“Anywhere! Take me out of this damned hole!”

But which damned hole he meant the driver did not know, for Georges’
gesture embraced the universe. The _gharry_ jolted and swayed along the
quay and, turning to the left, entered a semi-suburban region of large
houses, evil smells, and gutter children. It was dark here, and Georges
hated darkness.

“Take me out of _this_ damned hole as well,” he shouted.

And in a minute they emerged into Rue Egnatia and passed the Baths.
Georges had a thought.

“I’ll get washed,” said he. “And after that,” he added, for he was a man
of some education and humour, “I will stay me with flagons and comfort
myself with apples.”

So he stopped the _gharry_, alighted, and, paying his driver rather
regally, turned to the Baths.

He arrived at the precise moment when Aristides Kronothos, having
decided that further custom that night was most improbable, was about to
discard his towel-robe and don his ordinary garments. In those dim Baths
he saw his enemy and recognized him, and, shrinking behind a pillar,
said in a high-pitched assumed voice:

“Perhaps His Highness will take a room on the right.”

Georges rolled up the half-dozen steps and entered the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

Aristides was a man of great resource and some courage, and when his
mind, trumpet-like, had shouted to him: “My moment has arrived!” he ran
quickly to the outer door, bolting and locking it. Then he sped to a
little chamber, turned on a light and seized a razor....

There is no disguise like disfigurement, and within two minutes
Aristides had shaved off his eyebrows, taken out his prominent false
teeth, and cut a deep gash in his right cheek. The sight of his own
blood, as it fell into the bowl of water he had prepared, excited him
excessively, and as he swathed the lower part of his face in bandages he
breathed stertorously, and his eyes began to glitter with internal
light. But he worked quickly and without clumsiness, and he smiled with
satisfaction as he saw his thin blood creeping and spreading on the
bandage like red ink on blotting-paper.

“It must just show,” he said to himself, “not enough to alarm or sicken
him, but sufficient to assure him that my bandage is necessary.”

By now Georges was clapping his hands and calling for cognac, and it
was a very large glassful that Aristides, obsequiously bowing, handed to
him a moment later.

“God!” exclaimed Georges, “you are bleeding.”

“Yes,” said Aristides, “but it is nothing.”

“But I wanted a massage, and you look ill.”

“I assure you, it is nothing. It does not even hurt.”

Georges drank the cognac with a gulp, and sighed with vexation.

“I hate to see wounds,” he said, “are you sure your bandage is securely
fixed?”

“Your Highness need not be afraid. I shall not take off my bandage while
Your Highness is here. And it will not slip,” he added with a humour
that he felt to be daring.

“Very well, then: I’m ready. Sandals--a small pair.”

His wooden sandals clicked down the steps as he followed Aristides. In
single file they crossed the large court-like entrance hall, entered a
passage that twisted and turned inconsequently, passed through a room
whose ceiling dripped incessantly, found another passage, and, turning
suddenly to the right, entered a circular room whose ceiling was a blind
dome. Here also the water dripped.

“Like a cave,” observed Georges, with an utter lack of originality. “One
can imagine stalactites and stalagmites forming here and, in the course
of time, meeting and crusting together.”

Aristides stood listening deferentially. He knew his man. He knew that
Georges, with his insatiable vanity, was seeking to impress him.

Georges slipped off his towels, sat down on the raised marble slab and
submitted himself to his massage.

Nothing, of course, can reach the mind except through the channel of the
senses. Yet something reached Georges’ mind that his eyes did not see,
nor his ears hear, nor his flesh feel. Fear began to bud and blossom in
his mind like a monstrous fungus. Yet, curiously, he did not fear
Aristides: he feared himself.

“You are a clever masseur,” he observed, thinking banal conversation
might rid him of his terror.

“I am glad Your Highness thinks so.”

Aristides stopped in his work. He was kneeling by the side of his enemy,
and he fixed his glittering eyes on him with hate-hunger.

“I think I’ve been massaged enough,” said Georges, feeling suddenly
sick. “I am not very well. Perhaps it was the cognac.... How silent this
place is! No sound but water dripping.”

“We are here alone,” said Aristides. Though he spoke with no meaning in
his tone, Georges started violently and looked at the closed door.

“Yes, it is locked,” said Aristides.

And, without a word, the masseur rose languidly to his feet, crossed the
little chamber, and sat on the only chair it contained. Georges raised
himself to a sitting posture. His flabby face was pale, and
involuntarily he looked up at the windowless domes.

“There is no way out here,” said Aristides, smiling grimly.

“No. Why should there be? Will you fetch me some water? I feel faint and
damnably sick.”

“Certainly.”

Aristides brought a glass from a cupboard, filled it with water, and
handed it to his enemy.

Georges, having drained its last drop, rose, swayed for a moment, and
sat down, wiping his perspiring forehead with the back of his hand.

“You _look_ ill,” said Aristides.

“I have drunk too much, I think. I drank on an empty stomach. Help me
out into the cooler air. All the air here has been used up: it has been
through a hundred lungs.”

But Aristides did not move to help him. For a full minute there was
silence: a great silence emphasized by the drip-drip-drip of water
within the circular room. Georges was dimly aware of the water vapour
rising from the wet marble floor, and some strange inquiring part of his
brain wondered why the vapour made no noise as it floated upwards
through the dome. At length his wandering eyes were caught and held by
the eyes of Aristides, whose glance was sharp and poisoned. Georges
recoiled a little.

“Surely I have seen you before?” he asked.

“It is possible. It is likely. But I do not remember our meeting....
Does Your Highness feel better now?”

“A little. But I want air.”

And then Georges suddenly began to tremble, for as he stopped speaking
he became blindingly aware of the identity of his masseur. His physical
cowardice was astonishing, but he had a bold, sinewy mind, and he
summoned all its subtlety to his aid.

“Good God!” he exclaimed, with a welcoming smile, “you’re Kronothos! How
extraordinary! But I thought all along, somehow, that I knew you.”

He held out his hand with a great gesture of pleasure. Aristides took
it, and with his own communicated to Georges an indefinable feeling of
impending woe. He did not speak.

“But _you_ must have recognized _me_!” urged Georges. “Why did you not
say so? We were friends once, you know.”

Aristides saw his fear and loved it.

“Once it did certainly seem as though we were friends,” he admitted,
“but now, you see, I am the husband of the woman you live with.”

Terror shook Georges in his very vitals, and he leaned over as though to
vomit.

“Ah! Yes, yes!” he muttered. And his consciousness seemed to dart about
in his brain like a ferret in its cage.

Aristides stood savouring the quaking fear of his victim, but it was
with difficulty he prevented himself from rushing upon his enemy and
crushing out his life.

“Your Highness will wait here a little time whilst I tidy up,” he said.

And he began folding the towels and swabbing the floor. Georges, sitting
with his elbow on his knee and his chin in his hand, watched him with
apprehensive eyes. Finding this period of waiting no longer bearable, he
said, humbly:

“Will you let me go? I am too ill to.... You know, I am not entirely to
blame. She was tired of you.... Living with you made her....”

He stopped, fearing to speak more. Then:

“Please let me go,” he added.

With a bound Aristides was upon him, his wiry hands about Georges’ fat
throat, his finger-tips disappearing as far as the first joint into the
flesh of his wife’s seducer. He held on viciously, his fingers as firm
and frenzied as a bulldog’s teeth. Georges rolled over on his back, his
muscleless arms waving in the air like branches swayed by a breeze, and
a sound, half groan, half hiss, came from him as Aristides pressed his
right knee on his enemy’s chest. It lasted little more than a minute,
and at length the fat man of mixed blood lay soft and limp upon the
couch of marble whilst Aristides, exhausted, sat examining him
eagerly....

If you wish, you can be with him for a moment. In those spacious,
thick-walled Baths there is always deep silence save when customers and
workers are there; but the silence is constantly broken by big drops of
water that fall from roof and walls to the paved floor. As you listen,
there appears to be some purpose in this sound: some elaborate
scheming, maybe: some nefarious business afoot. It is the persistence of
it that counts, and it is the deliberateness of it that makes you
suspect conspiracies.

After violence there is always reaction, and a reaction came to
Aristides very quickly as he sat dumbly looking on the dead body of his
victim. He had a feeling of approaching catastrophe--a feeling that
implied that what had happened was as nothing compared with what was
about to happen. Disaster had been released, like a lion, from its den,
and ravage must necessarily follow. He, so careful of his own life, felt
himself drawn, dragged, into disaster. And the agent of disaster was
himself.

He rose, gave a final frightened glance at the body, unlocked the door,
and stumbled his way to the entrance of the building. He wanted to run
quickly and unthwarted to his doom. So he cast off his towel-robe and
began to don his outdoor clothing. And as he dressed he kept repeating
to himself:

“Kalamaria! Kalamaria! I will go to Kalamaria to die.”

For beyond Kalamaria, where the little cliffs are, the sea is deep, and
the water would take his body and smother it. He did not want to die,
and a deep fear shook his heart as he thought of death. But he could not
help himself. Something within him--the lion he had let loose--was
driving and goading him on towards death: his terror of death was as
nothing compared with his terror of discovery, for discovery would mean
prolonged torture as well as death, and he had already been tortured to
his soul’s full capacity.

What could bring him solace? Drink. Of course. The very word already
soothed him, as the promise to lend money immediately soothes the eager
borrower. He took a bottle of cognac from the shelf and drank deeply and
agitatedly. The liquid burnt his throat and stoutened his heart. He
stopped and gasped for breath, and then drank again, and again gasped.
Yes: yes: the stuff was already averting disaster: the lion would, in
the latter end, pass him by. For, after all, what had he done? Simply an
act of justice. Nothing more. An act of bare justice, for was it not
right that a seducer of women should die? He had, it is true, taken the
law into his own hands. But what man wouldn’t? What man doesn’t?...

Oh, yes: he felt much happier, much stronger, now. Nearly, very nearly,
he was content. The cognac fumes dizzied his brain, and as he rose to
leave the Baths, he lurched and laughed insanely at himself for doing
so. Turning out the lights, he opened the door and looked into Rue
Egnatia twenty yards or so away. The shops were lit: there was plenty of
traffic: an electric tram clattered by. The entire city, except these
loathsome Baths, seemed very friendly. And he was about to issue forth
into the night when the thought of the unconsumed cognac came to him. If
the half-bottle he had already drunk had killed his fear, would not the
remainder remove the very cause of that fear? The drink-fumes in his
brain assured him it would, and he re-entered the baths, felt his way to
the shelf, and carefully groped for the bottle his soul desired. He
found it and drank deeply.

And then he sat down and began dully to think--a stupefied brain in an
exhausted body. The bottle fell from his nerveless fingers, and the
liquor, pouring out, filled the air with the thick, sickly smell of
scented alcohol. Through the open door came a stray dog; it gazed round
in the darkness and wandered away.

Throughout that night Aristides Kronothos slept heavily and
dreamlessly--slept for an hour or two in a sitting posture until,
swaying a little, he overbalanced himself and fell stupidly and without
protest to the floor. It was there, Rompapas told me, that he was found
next morning, still crazy with liquor, still confident that he had
averted disaster.

When last I heard of him he was in the Citadel--a mild, gentle figure,
pathetically happy, and with a keen and soul-comforting remembrance of
his last encounter with George Georges.



THE DREAMER

To
Edith Heald


Every few years, gathering his small savings together, he left
intolerable Salonika and went to Athens where he dreamed away a month of
spring on the Acropolis, in the great weed-overgrown cemetery where
remnants of ancient beauty lie broken and marred, and in the Temple of
Jupiter in which he imagined he could hear faint music, and where, of a
surety, he witnessed dim processional rites unseen by others. And always
a few days were spent in Eleusis--fever-stricken Eleusis, so foul
to-day, so fair yesterday: Eleusis that still holds its Mysteries known
only to the gods: Eleusis where, each morning at dawn, he issued from
the muddy, sordid inn and, slipping off his white tunic, bathed in the
Ægean, singing to himself and gazing long and long into the clear
waters.

Athens to him was a White Paradise, and he would have left Salonika
years since to make his home there had not his bedridden mother clung
with increasing fretfulness to the gaudy city where her forefathers had
lived ever since the great exodus of Jews from Spain, centuries ago. To
her son, Salonika was hateful, for it was ever in conflict with his
dreams, and dreams were his life. They kept his soul winging. Whereas
Athens threw him into a quiet ecstasy. The present slipped into
nothingness, and the past lived....

There was a certain marble figure in the museum which seemed to him to
hold all Ancient Greece in its limbs and face.... A green lizard
clinging, sun-smitten, to a white wall seemed to belong to a remote age;
and a valley full of white butterflies--butterflies so thickly clustered
that they looked like dancing snow--was even now haunted by Pan. And at
night the moon on the marble of the Parthenon made him giddy with the
piercing realness of life....

But this evening he was at home, standing at his shop-door at the corner
of the Place de la Liberté. He gazed with shy eagerness up Venizelos
Street, that ill-paved gutter of a street where Birmingham and Hamburg
jewelry compete with one another for Jewish gold. Here, every evening,
he was to be seen, and, when no customer was in his shop bargaining for
a cast of Venus or for some piece of ivory carved by the Dreamer’s
sensitive hands, he would stand there in the daytime also, his rather
tired eyes full of hunger. For--but it was not likely--she might come by
day, though a years-old intuition insisted that the time of her arrival
would be some evening between sunset and dark.

Many people knew him and saluted him as they passed by: to these salutes
he responded gravely, and a little dignified gesture of his hands spoke
in duet with his voice: “God be with you! I pray you, do not speak to
me.” Hands so beautiful might well have made him vain, but he never
thought of himself. And though he lived so intensely, he was very rarely
conscious of his happiness except each night when, having closed the
street-door, he sought his bed with strange relief.

Venizelos Street was never beautiful, or even picturesque, till the
great fire of August 1917 came like a giant and, in a few hours, twisted
it to fantastic shapes. And the Dreamer loathed it, though he made
himself spend many hours of each day in gazing upon its squalidness, his
eyes ranging from the Place de la Liberté up to the point where the
street narrows and the Arcade and the Bazaars begin. But he had one of
the secrets of happiness: he could look at things and not see them:
better, far better, he could see things that were not there. Stein’s
steel-walled shop did not exist: Orosdi Back had never been there with
his wine and pickles: Tiring was only the faint echo of a name.
Salonika’s life-blood moved sluggishly in that main artery; but the
slowness was a predatory slowness--the cautious movement of men and
women for ever on the prowl. Sometimes his eyes would rest for a moment
on the discontented rich as they sat on their little chairs outside
Floca’s, drinking syrups and haggling over prices. They were nearly as
unreal to him as Jesus Christ is to the Christian.

He rarely glanced towards the sea, for he was sure she would not come
that way. The mountains were her home. She would come drifting like a
wraith, and, leaving the mountains, place her tiny feet on the plain,
flutter past Lembet and Karaissi, enter the town, and, turning to the
left down Rue Egnatia, reach this ugly street that sloped to and ended
in the tideless sea. Surely, crocuses and anemones would bloom on the
pavement when she came, and with her would come the stirring of a
breeze. It must be so: he had pictured it so often. She had radiant
eyes, he knew. She had always been young, ever since the beginning of
the world. Youth was hers for ever. And her hair ... his heart leapt,
for it seemed to him that her hand was about his heart: his heart cupped
in her hand: a hand cool and, in some curious way, conscious of itself.
Her hair was in his eyes, blinding them. A great light shone about her.

When she came, she would not speak to him: but, all the same, she would
know. That was what he was waiting for, living for: that she should
know.

A complaining voice came from the room just above his head. Turning
swiftly, he passed through the shop where a few pieces of statuary
gleamed white against the walls and shelves painted black, and quickly
mounted the staircase.

“God be with you, mamma!” he breathed, as he bent over a little
curled-up figure that lay on a bed near the window. The paralysed woman
murmured a little something he could not hear.

“I am here,” he said. “Feel me.”

And he placed a lean cheek against one of her hands.

A devastating weakness overcame her and she cried a little, but her
weeping, suffocated by exhaustion, soon ceased. She lay still and
seemingly asleep, and the Dreamer, kneeling by her side, felt pity
rising like a fountain in his heart. Her sallow face was like his own,
aristocratic, broad-brewed, patient. The eyes were still full of Jewish
ardour. He worshipped her always as a devotee worships the Madonna. It
was she who had quickened his love for the Beauty that lies behind
beautiful things, who had taught him that all life was a Seeming, who
had added glamour and twilight and witchery to his entire environment.

“Great little mamma!” he whispered.

She smiled wanly and opened her eyes for a brief instant.

“Were you watching?” she asked.

At this he started guiltily, for he had told no one, not even his
mother, why he stood nightly at the street-door.

“Yes,” he said simply.

“My poor son!” she murmured, her face tense with anxiety. “What you wait
for will never come.”

“No?... But if she did, and I were not there? You see how it is, mamma.
I _must_ be there.”

“Yes, yes. One must always be there, waiting.”

Her face composed itself, and, after waiting a few minutes, and thinking
she slept, he tiptoed away, his heart rushing before him to welcome the
lady of his dreams.

(Yet how was it that, having reached the doorway and having darted a
glance up the street, an expression of immeasurable relief lit his face
when he had satisfied himself that she was not coming down that way?)

Darkness was beginning, and demireps issued from side streets to the
Place. Greek women, flat-footed and unbeautiful, waddled by, virtuous
and miserable in their virtue. They carried virtue with them like a
shroud. The demireps, haughty and impudent, were like flowers in the
dusk. Lights appeared in the shop windows and the street traffic ebbed.
Plashing of waves against the quay almost level with the water less than
a hundred yards away, could faintly be heard. The Dreamer, looking
towards the sea for a robbed minute, saw divine Olympus, purple and
august, glowing and dying in the glowing and dying sky. So all beauty
faded and died, to be reborn richer for its ancestry, more wonderful for
its age.

He sighed, and his hungry eyes sought his lady. His brain was washed
clean of life: nothing dwelt in his mind but his dream. And
unconsciously he clenched his hands to convince himself for a moment of
his ecstasy, and to make that ecstasy more intense....

Those gracious, tender figures on the Acropolis! How chastely their
garments hung! They had only life that _was_ life, and perchance even
now--oh, yes, _now_, for a faint slip of moon was gliding down the
sky--they were walking, hand in hand, silently, in the Parthenon. They
mysteriously were she, his lady, his lady who must never speak to him,
but who one day, or one evening like this, would appear among this
depravity, and, looking on him, know and for ever remember....

The thought of Olympus dying away in the South came to him, and he
stole another glance at the mountain’s almost dead glory. Its summit was
white. A small boat heaped up with fruit was at the quay’s edge. Golden
oranges were massed together.... Yes: she would wear golden sandals, and
on her wrists would be gold, and gold would be on her hair.... His
impressions mingled confusedly; thought lay dead.

I do not think that in all Salonika, and perhaps in all the world, there
was so happy a man that night as the Dreamer in his hours of watching
and longing.

He lingered in his doorway until the streets became silent. She was not
coming. Not to-night. She was not coming with her everlasting youth,
bringing with her also his own renewed youth. For many years he had
waited, but every night she had disappointed him.

The night was now full-starred, for the moon had gone. A dog, shapeless
in the dark, nosed in the gutter. Two whispering old men passed close
by.

At length, exhausted by his vigil, the Dreamer turned and re-entered his
shop. His happiness, his sense of relief, was too great for expression.
As he closed the door quickly behind him, it was as though he were
shutting out the Dreadful One. He stood dazed in the darkness. The
oblong room in which he stood was perfumed and sweet. The white pieces
of statuary standing against the walls made themselves just visible;
they seemed made of mist, intangible; their outlines were blurred.
Rubbing his eyes, he stared at the statuary and smiled. Then he
stretched his arms to their utmost above his head and, bending his head
back, turned his face to the ceiling. In utmost weariness he stretched
himself and yawned.

And then, uttering a cry of delight, he rushed upstairs to his mother.
He fumbled with a lamp and lit it. Then he went to his mother’s bedside.

“Oh, mamma, mamma,” he said, “she has not come. It has not happened. My
dream has not come true. Oh, I am so happy, so very happy!”

He kissed her cheek. Her eyes, opened wide, searched him through and
through, as they had done on so many occasions.

“Oh, my son, my son!” she exclaimed, pityingly.

But he smiled with serene happiness, and taking a wisp of her meagre
hair between his finger and thumb gently rubbed it.

“The gods be with you,” he said, “as they are with me.”



WHEN THE GREEN ROSES CAME

To
Trevor Johns



There are only two people in this story: Zuleika, a large, indeed
massive, Jewess from Bucharest, and a rather elderly English diamond
merchant with a slight body and a white moustache.

For some odd reason--largely, I think, because he was both infinitely
courteous and gaily reckless--he attracted me, and, because I had been
some considerable time in Salonika and he had only just arrived, he
requested me to “show him round.” Before proceeding to do so, I asked
him what were the three things in the world he loved most of all. He
replied at once: “Animation, colour, and women.”

“Then,” said I, “my task is easy. Come with me.”

So we stepped into a _gharry_ (we were staying at a farm a little off
the road to Hortiach), and bumped down the Lembet Road, past the funny
old cemetery on our right, and stopped importantly in the middle of that
disastrously sordid square in which the Rue Egnatia and the road from
Lembet meet.

“And that’s that,” remarked Twelves as, having stepped from the
_gharry_, we watched it waggle away.

It was May 1913. The afternoon was late, and a cool breeze swept along
the sun-strewn street. My friend had (which I have not) the carriage of
a soldier, and, though I could give him at least three inches, I am
confident that, in the eyes of the women we met, he appeared to tower
above me. I think he was conscious of this, though he seemed to try to
hide it. To him, fresh from a tedious voyage from Bahia, Venizelos
Street was Paradise, and when we came to the Place de la Liberté, he
stood and looked at the gay crowd outside Floca’s with a slow, beguiling
smile about his mouth.

“I am beginning to sit up and take notice,” he remarked; “this, if I am
not mistaken, is indubitably IT.”

If “IT” meant laughter, light, and delicate linen discreetly displayed,
he was right. People from all the countries of Europe were there. The
ladies, being large and languid, and the early afternoon having been
insufferably hot, wore as little as possible. This, Twelves pointed out
with unnecessary particularity, was precisely as it should be.

But I am not going to tell you about Floca’s, for the tragedy did not
begin there; indeed, nothing really began until well on in the evening
when, as we were starting dinner at the White Tower, the sound of music
came to us from the adjoining room.

“It is Debussy’s ‘Les Poissons d’or,’” said Twelves, swallowing
whitebait, “and this is just the right atmosphere for it.”

Then, placing his napkin upon the table, he rose from his seat.

“In a minute I shall return,” he said, excusing himself and hastening
from the room. But ten minutes passed before he rejoined me, and a
single glance at him revealed that something of importance had happened
to him in the meantime.

“I’ve just seen Jezebel, or Cleopatra, or Zola’s Nana in that room,” he
said, excitedly, jerking his head in the direction from which the music
was proceeding. “She’s stunning. The restaurant people tell me they have
dancing in there after dinner--dancing and music. Shall we go?”

A curious, half-insane gleam of desire was in his eyes; he looked as
though he were on the point of attaining something for which he had been
striving all his life. His hands shook a little and he moistened his dry
lips with the tip of his tongue.

Now Salonika is the City of Evil Women, and not a few rapacious demireps
prowl like sleek tigers, subtle and wise, through the garish rooms and
prim gardens of the White Tower. They are wonderful to look upon; their
voices are like soft music; their hands are fluttering white moths;
their mouths are innocently crooked. Gorgeous works of art they are,
and, as works of art, entirely commendable; but to speak to them is to
be poisoned, and to embrace them is to place one’s arms around Death. I
said as much to Twelves, but he did not appear to listen, and as he was
at least fifteen years older than myself and a man of more worlds than
one, I did not venture to make my words more insistent or pointed.

As we were eating ices and hot cherries, the music, which had hitherto
been played by a master, became vulgar and tawdry. It was a vapid valse
given with a lunging and immoderate accent on the first beat of every
bar.

“That’s the sort of thing that makes cities loathsome,” remarked
Twelves, referring to the music; “let’s go and stop it.”

We arose, and I looked regretfully at six fat red cherries which,
against the yellow of my ice, appeared almost purple.

A minute later we had entered the great room with its stage, its smooth
floor, its half-moon of boxes. As yet only a few people were there; they
sat round small tables imbibing vicious drinks and gazing with
half-contemptuous amusement at the _pianiste_. I saw at once that she
was the woman who had so rapidly inflamed Twelves’ passion, for even her
back was voluptuous, and her neck reminded me of certain passages in the
Song of Solomon. She was sensuality incarnate--sensuality brainless,
horrific, devastating.

Twelves walked up to her and, placing his hand firmly on one of her
white shoulders, said:

“Stop playing! You are making yourself ridiculous. Listening to you is
worse--infinitely worse--than being in Clapham. Come over here with my
friend and me and tell us of some of the wicked things you have done.”

Her eyes swooped into his. They were large and lustrous, but, as they
sank into his, they decreased until the pupils became mere points of
light. Then her lips parted and she showed her little teeth in a broad
smile. I noticed that her skin appeared as firm and healthy as that of a
plum not wholly ripe. She ceased playing and, with a sharp gesture,
banged her fist upon the treble notes of the piano, placed one hand
upon Twelves’ arm and the other on mine, and walked between us to an
unoccupied table in the far corner of the room. As she did so she turned
and smiled triumphantly at the other ladies of her profession, and her
smile said: “See how easily I secure my prey! You, poor things, will
have to scheme and ogle till midnight.”

Even before she was seated she clapped her hands to summon a waiter, and
presently ordered a bottle of champagne.

“I always drink champagne with Englishmen,” she observed, “Beaume with
the French, and with the Germans--beer!”

She looked at Twelves for his approval, and the smile he had ready for
her was ample assurance that she had said a very witty thing.

“I come from Bucharest and my name is Zuleika,” she announced,
inconsequently. Her self-satisfaction was that of a deliciously vain
child. Then, with strange disconnectedness: “Would you like to see my
coins?” she asked.

We expressed the greatest interest.

“From Cairo,” she said, as she patted her satchel of beads the colour of
pigeons’ blood. She took therefrom a number of bright foreign coins and
held them in the cup made by her hollowed hands.

But Twelves did not even glance at them.

His strong, lithe fingers were embedded in the white flesh of her arm,
like manacles, and his eyes held hers.

“Well, well, well,” she laughed, “but you must be good and patient.”

She released her arm and touched him lightly on the cheek with the tips
of her fingers, smiling at him all the time.

And then the waiter placed a silver bucket of ice on the table; in the
middle of the ice wobbled a bottle of Moet and Chandon. Zuleika showed
her teeth in a broad smile, and turned swiftly round to examine the
faces of those who, in the meantime, had sat down at neighbouring
tables. Her eyes gave a rapid signal to a silly-looking creature
immediately behind her; he had a face of lard, a drooping moustache, and
googly eyes.

“Ah, Maestro!” she exclaimed, clasping his hands with gipsy ardour.

She turned round to us just as Twelves was taking a 25-drachma note from
his pocket-book. Her face immediately assumed a cunning expression, and
she stretched out a plump arm, gripped the bottle by the neck, and
poured out the wine.

“Another five drachmas,” she said softly, “that is the price in this
room.” Then, without a second’s pause, and holding her glass within an
inch of her ear in order to listen to the icy hiss: “I have been in
Salonika three weeks,” she announced, “and I think it is very nice. And
you?”

“We both leave to-morrow,” he said.

We clicked glasses and drank. The room was rapidly filling, and an
orchestra of scarlet-coated musicians played the latest Austrian waltz.
We talked about nothing, yet we were not bored by Zuleika’s
brainlessness, for Twelves was aflame with desire, and to me she was a
new type of huntress. Full-bosomed ladies, absurdly conscious of the
number and whiteness of their teeth, have always seemed to me much too
grotesque to love.

It was not long before I began to perceive that Zuleika had no intention
of succumbing either to Twelves’ masterfulness or his money. She knew I
knew this, and was particularly charming to me in consequence. She
desired neither him nor me: her mind was in Twelves’ pocket-book,
counting his money: but she sought to make me her accomplice by securing
my silence. Her design was the design of all hunters--to fasten her
teeth on her prey and not lose hold while there was blood left to suck.

A watery-eyed waiter hovered near, like a bat. She plucked his sleeve.

“Another bottle!” she commanded imperiously, and, magically, it was on
the table in twenty seconds, but this time the neck of the bottle
emerged from a silver bucket filled with white roses. Evidently we were
now customers worthy of special attention.

“C’est a vous,” she said, nodding and smiling in my direction, and
evidently it was, for the bat, with folded wings, stood by my side.

It was while I was paying him in ten-drachma notes that an acquaintance
squeezed his way past our table, stooped and murmured in my ear:

“Do you know how much she gets for each bottle you pay for?”

“Haven’t the remotest,” said I, “about how much?”

“Just a matter of ten drachmas. I hope she’ll prove worth it. But that,
I suppose, remains to be seen.”

He went, and, turning round to the table, I saw much to my astonishment
that there were now four clean glasses on the tray the waiter had
brought. Zuleika was filling them all to the brim.

“Maestro! Maestro!” she called, without turning her head. From the table
behind came the man with the googly eyes. He smiled familiarly yet
guardedly at us as he took the glass of champagne which Zuleika handed
him. He would have spoken to us if he had not seen the hostility in
Twelves’ and my eyes; but, without the slightest indication of
embarrassment, our uninvited guest tossed the contents of the glass into
his mouth, let them dwell there a moment, and then swallowed them with
an audible gulp.

“He is my brother,” explained Zuleika, enthusiastically.

“That may be so,” said Twelves, “nevertheless, he is an extremely
disagreeable person.”

And his long hand darted out like a hawk and again plunged into the
flesh of her arm. He looked at her meaningly; indeed, his gaze was like
a shout saying, “I want you! I want you! I want you!” She turned away
from him impatiently.

“Very well, then,” she said, “but you must wait a little. When the green
roses come. These are white, but round the fifth bottle there will be
green.” And she spread her hands over the white roses surrounding the
champagne bottle.

“Oh, damn the green roses!” growled Twelves. “Here, waiter, another
bottle, quick!”

She glanced at him from the tail of her eye, and then immediately became
absorbed in the performance of a tall angular girl who, with exquisite
art, was singing a rapid French song full of diablerie. She had no
looks, no voice, and no figure; but she had personality, genius. Silence
had fallen upon the drinkers, and every one listened and watched; only
the waiters, more than ever like bats, moved swiftly about, bearing
absinthe and vermouth on purple trays. The singer exhaled a charm that
diffused itself about the room; suddenly, she ceased singing, made a
faint gesture, threw a kiss to the audience, and vanished. Immediately
there was a great shouting and a stamping of feet.

“It is always like that,” complained Zuleika, pouting. “The men love
her. Why? She is ugly and she is all bones and skin: Ugh! It makes me
sick to see so ugly a woman driving the men mad.”

But the third bottle of champagne caught her eye, and she burst into a
laugh.

“See,” she said, pointing to the roses, now pink, that surrounded the
bottle, “see my passion is--what do you call it?--rising--yes, rising!”

In proof thereof, she threw her arm lightly round Twelves’ neck and
kissed him behind the ear. He paled with desire. As for me, I turned a
little to one side and made a pretence of studying the audience. The
next thing I was aware of, they were both leaning over the table, their
heads together, whispering. She was smiling, cunning and triumphant,
whilst his face wore an expression of irritation and baffled desire.

“Come on, waiter, damn you!” he called, “another bottle and another.
Yes--two! Blood-roses round the first, and round the second green. And
that,” he added, “makes five.”

“Yes, five. One, two, three, four, five,” she counted on her fingers.
“It is enough.”

And in due course the two fresh bottles appeared. The bucket containing
the blood-red roses was placed in front of Zuleika: that containing the
green before Twelves. When the waiter had opened both bottles, Zuleika
ordered him to take one to the neighbouring table for “the Maestro.”

“You seem to be very fond of your brother,” observed Twelves, “but it is
strange he should be willing to drink a whole bottle of wine paid for by
a complete stranger.”

She looked at him darkly.

“You wish to quarrel with me,” she said, “very well then, I am quite
content.”

“So _that’s_ your game, is it?” exclaimed Twelves, with unexpected
ferocity. “You drink champagne with me for a couple of hours and then
think you can do what you like. The green roses have come and you must
pay for them.”

He pulled out his pocket-book in order to pay for the wine, but before
he had handed the waiter the money, she held out her hand, palm upwards,
and placed it on the table.

“One hundred and twenty-five drachmæ for me,” she whispered; and,
without a moment’s hesitation, he handed her five 25-drachmæ notes.

Then an amazing thing happened. Quite openly, she swung round in her
chair and handed the five notes to the man she called “the Maestro.” He
took them and placed them carefully in his pocket; but, as he did so, he
kept his eyes fixed on Twelves. Twelves returned his gaze steadily. In
the eyes of the stranger I saw a look of amusement and half-veiled
contempt. And certainly Twelves was appearing in a contemptible light.
Even physically he was contemptible, for he looked very diminutive by
Zuleika’s side, and it was only his firm jaws and clear eyes that
redeemed him from futility.

“Before we go we will drink this last bottle,” she said.

They sat side by side without a word, drinking their champagne. As I
was, so to speak, out of it, I turned my head and gazed at the scene of
mad revelry that met my eyes, wondering and trying to discover precisely
what it was that made the frantic abandonment of the night different
from similar evenings I had spent in Paris, Marseilles, Cairo, and
Athens. I came to the conclusion that the difference was chiefly in the
women. They had no tenderness, no passion, no sense of adventure, no
enjoyment. They were simply rapacious. They did not walk: they prowled.
They did not sit: they couched....

During the last half-hour the chairs and tables in the middle of the
room had been removed and a few couples had started a bizarre form of
tango. A woman with bared breasts and arms, a broad crimson sash wound
three times round her body her only clothing, focused the onlookers’
attention. She was tall and graceful, and her body imitated the
movements of a snake. It was horrible, but it was fascinating, and the
beast that is in most of us leapt to the faces of the men who looked on
and made them seem inhuman. Here was another huntress, but I felt that
her potential victims were as rapacious as she, and that soon she would
be their prey.

From the tail of my eye I saw Twelves and Zuleika rise and move from our
table. It was as I had guessed. She would not repulse him here, but in
the spacious hall outside, for even in the White Tower “scenes” are not
tolerated.

I followed at a discreet distance, feeling a sudden nausea at the vice
around me and longing for the northern mountains of Greece where I had
spent the winter. There was a sickly smell of heliotrope, and the air
was misty with tobacco smoke.

When they had reached the hall, Twelves and Zuleika stopped in earnest
conversation, but I moved on to the cloakroom to get our hats and
sticks. This occupied me for only a minute, but when I had returned I
found my companions in the midst of a furious, though subdued, quarrel.

Twelves hardly spoke, but when he did so, he jerked out a sentence in a
whisper so passionate that it sounded more urgent than a scream.
Fragments of the conversation reached me.

“But it’s impossible,” exclaimed Zuleika, “to-morrow. Not now.... My
husband is here. Yes, yes, yes! I have told you already. The Maestro is
my husband. He would kill me.... How _dare_ you! But you Englishmen are
all pigs. I go back to the room. And you ... you clear out!”

She stretched out her arm with a superb gesture and pointed to the door.
But Twelves stood resolute.

“You red fiend!” he whispered, “but I will have you yet.”

Two waiters had stopped to watch. One of them, a lascivious Greek, broke
into a giggle.

“You are coming with me and you are coming now,” said Twelves, “if you
don’t, I shall have no mercy on you.”

Then she laughed and threw her beaded satchel over Twelves’ head to one
of the waiter’s behind her. He caught it, and she folded her arms.

“I could laugh at you,” she said, “but if I once began I should never
stop. What is it you say in England--‘No fool like an old fool,’ isn’t
it? And a fool always threatens what he can’t do. _You will have no
mercy on me!_ Boo!”

And, swift as lightning, she thrust out her arms and caught him by the
shoulders. For a few seconds her massive frame towered above him and she
shook him violently. The waiter renewed his high falsetto giggling.
Then, placing one foot behind her, she lunged her body forward, and her
muscular arms shot out like two piston-rods. Twelves fell backwards, his
head striking a heavy chair four paces behind him. As he did not move, I
rushed forward to his help, but, as I rushed, the waiters ran also, and
we arrived at Twelves’ prone body at the same moment.

Twelves, though badly injured, was perfectly conscious.

“Take me out,” he said, “I feel bloody sick.”

And that is all that happened.

At the beginning of this story I called it a tragedy, but perhaps you
think that “comedy” describes it better. Well, on the whole, so do I.

I only hope Twelves does too.



PAUL OF TARSUS

To
Julius Harrison



Paul had finished his day’s work at the quay-side of Thessalonica
unloading a cargo of timber, and now sat watching two young men,
followers of Christ and dear friends of his own, who, naked to the
waist, were washing the day’s sweat and dirt from their arms and faces.
They were Greeks--handsome, athletic, and full of gaiety.

“Art thou tired, Master?” asked the younger of the two, walking up to
the great traveller and preacher and offering him a wet cloth for his
face.

“What--with this kind of work?” said Paul, smiling. “Thou thinkest I am
old and weak, I know,” he added, taking the cloth from his young friend
and pressing it gratefully against his bared throat.

“No, dear Father, I don’t.... I will sit by thy side until Aristarchus
has finished cleansing himself.... Father, I want to ask thee
something.”

“Well, my son: ask.”

But the young man stared across the sea to Olympus and would not speak.
Paul, divining the mood that was upon him, touched his arm gently.

“Ask me any time, my son.” Then he added eagerly and with some passion:
“Hast thou told Aristarchus thou wishest to marry?”

“Marry?”

The young man laughed nervously and self-consciously.

“Father, I might have known thou wouldst guess,” he said. “No, I have
not told Aristarchus. I have told no one: not even her.”

“And it is about her thou wishest to speak with me?”

“Yes, Father, it is,” answered Lycastus.

But again he sat silent, not being able to speak one single word; and
presently Aristarchus came over to them, his bronzed face wet, his neck
and arms bare.

“Jason will be expecting thee,” he said to Paul.

“Yes,” assented Paul. “And thou, Aristarchus? Whither art _thou_ going?”

“I am going home to my wife and little son to talk of Jesus Christ. But
I will walk some way with thee, Master,” he said. “Come, Jason will have
his food spread for thee, and, I doubt not, some wine for thy tired
body.”

“Aristarchus, thou knowest I am not tired,” said Paul, reproachfully,
“it is only here that I am weary,” he added, placing his hand against
his heart. “Come, Lycastus and Aristarchus, we will walk together.”

But though Paul had protested that he was not weary, he walked half a
pace behind the young men and placed a heavy hand on the shoulder of
Aristarchus. They walked in a westerly direction, towards the marshy
mouth of the great river, and when they were clear of the city walls,
they slackened their pace. Already the air was cooler, for the evening
was coming and the sun was now sliced across by the horizon. Olympus, in
a delicate mist, burned milkily like an opal.

“Aristarchus,” said Paul a little absently, “Lycastus has something to
tell thee.”

But Lycastus, hanging his head, did not speak.

“Lycastus, what is it?” asked Aristarchus. “But I see how it is with
thee. Thou art shy. Thou art in love and thou wishest to marry.”

He laughed a little.

Lycastus placed his arm for a moment on the arm of his friend.

“_Thou_ knowest also? Who told thee?”

“Thyself. Has he not told us, Master? Thou hast been very happy these
last weeks, Lycastus, and sometimes thou hast been sunk deeply in moods
of the sweetest misery. And sometimes the blood has come quickly to thy
cheeks for no reason that I could see, and has gone as quickly as it
came. It is only a maid who does that to a man. What is her name?”

“Her name is Drusilla.”

“And she loves thee?” asked Aristarchus, encouragingly.

“I think she does. I have prayed that she may.”

They walked on in silence for a little while, Paul’s eyes bent on the
ground.

“What dost thou say of it, dear Father?” asked Lycastus, timidly.

“If thou hast been praying to Jesus Christ and He has helped thee, what
can I say? Those who must marry must marry. But I shall lose thee as I
have lost Aristarchus.”

“Oh, Master: thou knowest well thou hast not lost me!” exclaimed
Aristarchus, reproachfully. “We love and serve the same God. It was you,
Master, who gave Jesus to me and I still have Jesus.”

“Nevertheless, thou hast gone from me. I feel thou hast. Thy wife
has--stolen thee.”

Aristarchus, angry and resentful, moved a little away from Paul so that
Paul’s hand slipped from his shoulder and his arm fell dead and limp.

“It is not true, Master,” he said.

“No, dear Father, it is not true,” urged Lycastus.

“Only I,” said Paul, “can know who are those who dwell in my heart, and
thou, Aristarchus, are not one of them.... But here I leave thee. This
road on our left is mine and, as thou hast reminded me, Jason will be
waiting for me.”

The three men stopped at the cross-roads in the dusk. It was the short
time of half-light. The sky in the east was the green of apples, and in
the west it was like the red of the pomegranate’s fruit. All three men
were disturbed and sad. Aristarchus, so loyal and patient, felt his
anger melt suddenly: the something hard in his bosom softened and went.

“Come, Master,” he said, “come to my home. Come and speak with my wife.
Thou dost not know her because thou wilt not.”

“But, Jason will be....” began Paul, the words dying on his lips.

“Go with him, dear Father,” urged Lycastus, “I will come with thee.”

So Paul turned without a word and went with his young friends, but the
dark look on his face matched the dark shadow that, from the northern
mountains, was swallowing up this land.

It was but a short way to the house of Aristarchus, and as they entered
the little stone dwelling they found a woman awaiting them. Aristarchus
saluted his wife with a kiss, placing his hands one on each shoulder.

“Master, this is my wife, and here, Philyra, is Paul of Tarsus of whom
thou hast heard me tell so many times.”

“Welcome, Master,” she said, and she pressed herself against the doorway
to let him pass.

Inside there was but little light. The son of Aristarchus and Philyra
was asleep in a wooden cradle on the floor near the centre of the room.
On a table near by were wine and food.

“Thou wilt sit and drink, Master?” asked Philyra.

But Paul waved her aside and remained standing.

The child woke and, seeing his father, said some little words. He was
fair, like his tender, beautiful mother. As Aristarchus moved forward to
greet his son, Lycastus pulled his garment, but Aristarchus, paying no
heed, walked to the crude cradle he had made, and bent over his babe. He
gave the child his finger to play with, and lingered by him a moment or
two.

“Didst thou finish thy work?” inquired Philyra, abashed yet very eager.

“Yes. It was very hot. Our Master has come to talk with us, Philyra.
Thou wilt sit, Master?”

“No,” answered Paul, “I came for but a minute. Jason awaits me. And I
would be alone. Farewell!”

“Stay, Master, stay!” cried Philyra. “I have heard thee talk of
Christ--many times I have heard thee in the market.”

She shrank a little after she had spoken, afraid that she had said what
should have been left to others.

Paul looked at her kindly, but with no trust in his eyes.

“Thy son has been baptized?” he asked.

“Oh, yes. Indeed, yes,” she answered.

“And thou and Aristarchus are already followers of Christ! Why, then,
should I linger? So many are unsaved.”

“I think,” said Lycastus, “some men and some women want support in their
faith. When the light is withdrawn, there is darkness.”

“Put not thy faith in man, Lycastus,” said Paul, sternly. “Light
proceeds from God, and God never withdraws Himself.”

“Then if thou art not the light,” said Philyra in a whisper, “thou art
the lamp that shields the light, that keeps it burning--for us.”

But Paul’s dark face remained dark, and when the child in the cradle
began again to speak little words, the great teacher turned to go. He
withdrew very silently, saying only, “Farewell!” as he reached the door.
As he disappeared, Lycastus asked Aristarchus a question with his
eyebrows, and, in reply, Aristarchus gravely lowered his head.

So Lycastus followed Paul into the night which by now had come. He
could see his Master outlined against the thick stars. Paul was walking
slowly; his heavy frame was bent, and his robe trailed in the dust.
Lycastus, fearing to incur his anger, walked some paces behind his
Master, and his sandalled feet stepped warily.

He loved Paul dearly, and to-night his heart ached for him and his
conscience smote him. But so full of tenderness is the heart of man, and
so sweetly selfish is man’s love for woman, that in a very short time he
had forgotten his Master and, in imagination, Drusilla walked by his
side, her slender fingers in his, her head on his heart. For Lycastus
was never alone. As soon as he was withdrawn from others, Drusilla was
with him. To-night the stars were in her hair, and the little breeze was
her breath. And he fell to thinking of the house they would share and of
the babe that would be born to them, and in his heart of hearts he knew
that what Paul had said was true. Paul had lost Aristarchus, and
Lycastus soon would be lost to him also.

“It must be so! It is right it should be so!” said Lycastus to himself.

Yet he felt sad when he thought of Paul, and he sought in his mind for
something he could say or do to comfort him.

Presently they were at the cross-roads. Paul stopped, turned, and saw
his young friend approaching. But he would not return Lycastus’
greeting; instead, he stood firm and rigid, his thick neck and noble
head immovable. The wild eyes had in them light that was not borrowed
from the stars.

“Pass on!” he said. “Trouble me not!”

So Lycastus passed on to his home and, ere he had unloosened his robe,
had forgotten Paul and was already dreaming of Drusilla and the glad
days to come.



THE MOON MAN

To
Samuel Langford



Sour and always a little miserable, Vuk Karadjitch worked all day in the
fields, feeling that life had brought him nothing. Life was as tasteless
as water, as unmusical as the chink of money on a counter. He could not
conceive why he had been born; existence was a casually organized series
of accidents. Every thing that happened was accidental. Death was the
only event that the gods had deliberately and elaborately planned: one
saw death coming almost from the very moment that one was born.

Karadjitch had the lithe body of an aristocrat: the features also, and
the poise of head. His neck had proud muscles, and his throat was
shapely. But though he had the appearance and carriage of one highly
born, his birth was lowly, and the education he had snatched, almost
stolen, from life was not of the kind to increase his money-earning
capacity.

His mind, a little marred at birth, had been almost ruined by knowledge.
His brain fastened itself on the past--on mythology--the sweet legend of
Hylas, and on the golden story of Helen of Troy. It is so easy to make
the past more real than the present: it is so pleasant to do this, so
fruitful of happiness. So Vuk Karadjitch lived in the days that were
long before his birth.

And as he worked in the orchards that lie above Kirekoj--working at
night to keep robbers away--he stared continually at the moon, the moon
that was to him the oldest and most tired thing in all God’s universe.
Ever since he had been a boy this wayward planet had excited him, and
the coming of manhood had not lessened the strange sympathy, even
longing, that he felt for the great globe of light wandering with such
self-conscious pride among the stars....

His mother, a harassed, reserved woman, used years ago to put little Vuk
to bed with fear whenever the moon shone through the high, shutterless
window. She would cover his head so that he should not see the blue
light on the wall.

“Go to sleep, child,” she would whisper as she bent over him; “do not
walk to-night.”

But almost of a certainty he would rise in his sleep and walk to the
room in which his mother sat, his eyes open and luminous, his little
hands stretched palm upwards in front of him. Then she would tremblingly
put down her work, go to him, and just touching him with the tips of her
fingers, guide him back to bed.

If, as often happened, the boy’s father was in the house when Vuk
walked, the gnarled old man would roughly seize him and shake him into
terrified wakefulness.

“It’s a beating the lad wants,” the father would say; and, indeed, one
night he raised his hand and his son staggered and shrieked under the
blow he received.

Vuk’s father had reason, though he knew it not, to dislike the boy.
Karadjitch was a cuckold, but so little suspicion had he of this, that
he smiled with secret pleasure when neighbours remarked how like to him
was his wife’s handsome boy.

One evening the mother arranged a curtain over the bedroom window so
that the moon could not get at her son. But even on that night Vuk
walked. And, a few evenings later, softly entering his room, his mother
saw him standing on the back of a high chair at the window, his body
precariously balanced, his dilated eyes fixed most questioningly on the
molten moon....

She spoke nothing to her neighbours of all these things which, I must
tell you, happened fifteen years ago in that most lovely of
towns--Doiran so white and perfect standing by the blue, deep lake whose
name is also Doiran.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kirekoj has no lake like Doiran, yet Vuk, now a young man of
twenty-three, loved this place cupped so gently in the mountains. He had
only to walk up through the vineyards and orchards and drag himself to
the top of the ridge to see Langaza which, though not so beautiful as
Doiran, is perhaps more mysterious.

Just as, when a boy, he had been employed to scare away birds from the
crops, so was he now paid to guard the fruit-burdened orchards from
robbers....

One night in August his depression was so great that, as he sat with his
back against a young pomegranate tree, he allowed his mind to become
numb with wretchedness. There was no moon this night, and he had come to
depend so much upon this far-off friend of his that a great loneliness
oppressed him. A dog, snuffing in the undergrowth, came to him and put
his nose in Vuk’s open hand. The young man made no response, but the dog
licked and liked him and stayed with him. And every night the
affectionate wild creature would come and sit by him. Never once did Vuk
give him a caress or vouch him a word. Yet he never wished the dog to go
away.

The man and woman in Kirekoj with whom Vuk lived were kind to him,
though they thought him strange and often wondered what his thoughts
were. When Vuk set out in the evening to his work, the woman would give
him a little parcel of food--bread, a handful of olives, and a bottle of
red wine, and Vuk would smile at her shyly and say some words of thanks.
The young men of the village--mostly Bulgars--had long ago accepted him;
at first, they had teased him a little, but as he always replied with a
smile of good-nature, they had soon come to see that his oddness was not
a thing to give them amusement.

Sometimes Vuk would try to throw himself into their company, forcing
himself to be one of them. He was afraid of his own strangeness. But his
abnormal shyness barred his way, and the sensitive distaste he had for
life was too strong to be overcome. He envied his fellows. He envied
their capacity for comradeship, their day-long happiness, the ease with
which they laughed and talked. But he could never become like them. His
self-distrust increased with the years, and he turned more passionately
than ever to his dreams of the past and to his silent companion in the
sky.

One afternoon, the man with whom he lived came in from his work in the
fields and found Vuk reading a book.

“Will you drink wine with me?” the man asked.

“Thank you: I will,” answered Vuk, shrinking a little.

The man poured out two glasses, and, as the day was very hot, Vuk
drained his at a single draught. The man silently refilled it, and in
five minutes the glass was again empty.

His host, looking at him, smiled.

“Why don’t you go to the inn and drink with Stepan and the other lads?”
he asked. “To get drunk sometimes is good for a man.”

Vuk, returning his gaze, smiled also.

“I will drink with you, if you like,” he returned, for the wine had
excited him, and he did not feel as much afraid as usual.

So his host brought another bottle and yet another and, after some time,
Vuk began to talk.

“Am I in your way living here?” he asked, his eyes looking wounded and
beseeching.

“No. I like you to be here. My wife likes you to be here. We are all
happy together--eh?”

“I am happy with you,” said Vuk. “I often want to say things to you, but
I can’t. I am not stupid. I understand things, but--somehow---- ” His
voice trailed off to a murmur. Then, clenching his fists and tightening
all his body, he said with an effort: “I understand things, but I cannot
speak about them. It seems as though you are all so far off that you
wouldn’t grasp what I said. And I am always afraid that I might say
something that would be strange to you.”

His host laughed tolerantly.

“We are all strange, eh? And what would it matter if we didn’t
understand you? You must talk: it is good for every man to talk. Perhaps
you are wise, and no one understands wise men.”

This comforted Vuk a little.

“Perhaps I am,” he said; “I do not know.” He paused for a moment. “Have
you--have you ever noticed at night how, though it may be very silent,
it is still more silent when the moon appears?”

His companion considered a moment.

“No, I don’t think I have,” he answered, shifting uneasily in his chair.

Vuk took another mouthful of wine.

“Well, you listen one night and you’ll hear. Especially when the moon is
just rising--red and swollen on the horizon. Of course, she is angry
then, and at those times I always think she is like some raging, drunken
queen rising from her couch in the middle of the night.”

His companion stared at Vuk for a moment and then laughed. But by now
Vuk was too exalted and excited to notice that his host was
uncomfortable and perhaps a little contemptuous, and, putting his arms
on the table and leaning forward, he began to talk volubly.

“I wish I had money to buy jewels,” he said, “especially certain jewels
like opals. I would like to hold many opals in the hollow of my hand: I
would like to crush them together between my hands. You know that all
fire is the sun. Did you know that? Yes. I’m telling you. Take coal.
Coal is buried wood. And what is wood? Wood is trees. And it is the sun
that makes trees grow. It pulls at the ground and draws them out; it
warms them and feeds them. When you burn wood and coal, it is the sun
that leaps out at you--a little bit of the sun that has been silently
hiding for many years. A good deal of the sun is stored under the ground
and a good deal of it is alive and burning there. Well, it is the same
with the moon. Some precious stones absorb the moon. Opals do. That is
why I want to hold many opals in my hand and crush them together. And I
am sure that the moon gives herself to water, especially to large sheets
of water like Lake Langaza.” He paused a few moments, his thoughts far
away. “You can feel the moon, soft and sliding, on your limbs, if you
bathe at night when the moon is high in the sky: but when the dawn
comes, the light of the sun destroys all the moon that is in the water.”

He noticed, for the first time, that his companion’s eyes were shut and
that his heavy breathing was developing into a snore.

“I am explaining this to you!” exclaimed Vuk, peremptorily.

But his host sank deeper into slumber, and for a little while Vuk talked
quietly to himself until he, too, slept.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening at dusk Vuk, dazed with wine, made his way to the orchards
above Kirekoj. For a long time he sat brooding among the trees, until
the moon, full and splendid, went redly up the sky. He watched her so
closely that he could see her moving. To-night she did not seem to
glide: she moved with just perceptible jerks--“Like the hands of a very
large clock,” said Vuk to himself, for he had wandered far and had lived
in many big cities.

He watched the trees appearing out of the blackness: they seemed to be
marching upon him, closing in upon him. So he arose and began to walk,
and presently came to the edge of the orchard and looked up at the
mountain at whose feet he stood. He began to climb, and soon, after
leaving the vineyards behind him, he came upon large, bare rocks in the
clefts of which grass and flowers grew. It was while he was climbing
both with hands and feet that his dog-friend, excited but silent, joined
him.

“Tchut! tchut!” said Vuk, beneath his breath.

The dog, honoured by human speech, became still more excited, and Vuk
could see him dimly as, having rushed to the top of a high rock, he
stood open-mouthed, wagging his tail.

Now, there was no one either in Langaza or Kirekoj who was more bound by
conscience to his work than Vuk Karadjitch, and it was very strange that
on this night he should, without effort, have left his master’s orchards
to wander up the mountains. He did not know where he was going or,
indeed, why he was “going” at all. But I have no doubt that something in
his brain--one of the many selves that were Vuk--was urging him forward
to some secret purpose of its own.

Stillness and the moon’s rays held the night, and though the moon
falsified distance and misled even Vuk who was used to the moon’s
deceit, he reached the top of the mountains sooner than he had expected.
There, unseen, Langaza lay beneath him. Looking in Langaza’s direction,
he suddenly became aware of his motive in coming thither. Turning to the
dog, he muttered threateningly:

“Go away! Go away!”

But though he threw stones at the animal, it refused to leave him. So,
muttering to himself, Vuk proceeded down the other side of the mountain,
making his way to Langaza with impatient strides.

Langaza is a lake without banks, and even a careful investigator will
find it difficult to determine where dry land ends and water begins.
Rushes and grasses, tropically luxuriant, grow from dry earth, mud, and
the lake’s bed. In hot weather the air is miasmatic, and millions of
mosquitoes make with their wings high shrieks as they fly their way
through the air.

When Vuk found himself on the edge of this poisoned richness, he was
covered with sweat, and the fumes of the afternoon’s wine had left his
brain. For a little time he stood looking at the moon--not at the moon
in the sky, for that was too far away, and its very distance mocked him;
but at the moon in the lake that was so near. Man cannot without wings
soar into the sky, but his own weight will carry him to the bottom of
the deepest abyss.

He walked into the rushes and grasses and, in a moment, was surrounded
by them; they towered above his head, and soon his feet began to sink in
the slime and mud of the lake’s true edge. The dog, with velvet paws,
followed a pace behind him. Vuk had forgotten him, for Vuk’s mind was
now full of the moon and inflamed by it.

In a very short time walking became laborious and slow, for Vuk’s feet
sank into the mud until it covered his ankles, and it was with a great
effort that he drew them out again. The sucking, explosive sound they
made, and the Moon Man’s heavy breathing startled many large water-birds
that, with flopping wings and raucous throats, announced their fear as
they rushed away.

Guided by the moon, Vuk at length reached the inner edge of the rushes.
In his journey he had fallen many times, and his clothes, his hands, and
his face were thick with ooze; the spiky rushes had pierced his flesh,
and his face and neck were bleeding. The water now reached his thighs.
He stood still while he undressed. His impatient hands feverishly
unwound the long cloth that circled his stomach many times. When naked,
he waded still further into the lake, and then, lifting his feet and
pressing his chest against the water, he swam towards the moon lying in
the lake. The dog, devoted and dumb, and seemingly driven by the same
fate, followed him.

Vuk could swim well, but he was already exhausted before he had emerged
from the forest of rushes and grasses. It was a long, long way to the
moon in the lake, and in a little time his strokes became feeble and
there was only just enough movement in his arms to keep him afloat.
Turning himself on his back, he rested. All deep desire had gone from
his mind. Weary, he wished for oblivion. The moon was at the bottom of
the lake, waiting. He had only just to sink now where he was, and
slowly, very slowly, but oh! how safely and inevitably, he would go to
her.

He began to sink and to be smothered.... After a time he reappeared,
feebly struggling. The dog snatched at and missed him. Vuk sank again.
And after that Vuk’s body, remaining, for how long I know not, midway
between the water’s surface and the lake’s bottom, was never again seen.

The dog swam in ever-widening circles round the spot where the Moon Man
had disappeared until he, also, sank, perhaps joining the only friend he
had ever known.



HOW HIS FRIENDS DESTROYED HIM

To
Olive Warnock



To Harry Bruton it seemed an eternity before the little steamer,
_Caucase_, was berthed, the gangways placed in position, and the
passengers allowed to disembark on the quay at Le Pirée. For nearly half
an hour he had been standing on the quay-side shouting inanities to his
friend Dick Cassels who, clad in flannels, a straw hat, and a
lemon-coloured tie, stood grinning on the deck and failing to catch a
word that was called to him.

“Had a good time?” shouted Bruton.

Cassels, examining his watch and craning his neck forward, yelled back:

“Just 8.40.”

“Oh--damn! Can’t you hear?”

“What do you say?”

“Damn!--that’s all.”

This sort of thing could not go on indefinitely, and Bruton, shrugging
his shoulders, began to laugh. Nevertheless, he was terribly anxious for
Cassels to come on shore. Every minute mattered. God alone knew what
might be happening at this very second in that big house on the
outskirts of Athens--that house whose garden even now, in April, was one
huge, thick cluster of flowers, crimson, blue and yellow.

Bruton had been in Greece a couple of years. Leaving Oxford at the age
of twenty-three, he had gone to Athens to study and write. Cassels was
coming to him for a few days on his way to Constantinople. Friends of
many years standing, both had for some weeks been looking forward
eagerly to this meeting, and now, though they were within a stone’s
throw of each other, they could not clasp hands. At last the gangways
were pushed from the boat to the quay, and Cassels was one of the first
to step on shore.

“Let’s hurry through the Customs as quickly as possible,” said Bruton,
“I’ve got a car waiting on the road.”

Five minutes later they were in the car rushing at top speed in the
direction of Athens, four miles away.

“And now that those rotten Levantine Jews have ceased pawing my baggage
and me,” said Cassels, “how are you?”

“Top-hole. And you?”

“Never fitter in my life. Good lord, it’s fine to see you again, Harry.
Had a ripping time on board. There was a French girl who sang....”

Bruton interrupted him by placing a sudden hand on his friend’s arm.

“An awf’ly rotten thing’s happened, Dick. I must tell you all about it
before we arrive. I’ve got a friend here in Athens--a man called
Gascoyne. Yesterday his girl jilted him and ran off God knows where with
another fellow. She played up to him--to Gascoyne, I mean--to the very
last moment: spent the evening with him the day before she skedaddled.
Well, Gascoyne’s done--absolutely broken. All yesterday and last night I
was with him, literally keeping him from suicide. I am going to him now:
I daren’t leave him alone.”

“Good Lord!” exclaimed Cassels. “Rather a weak sort of devil, isn’t he?
And why the dickens should _you_ bother about him, anyway? This is going
to knock the bottom out of our holiday.”

“I’m afraid it is. But, you see, he’s all alone and I’m his closest
friend. His mother’s dead, his father’s away, and there he is with just
one man-servant, a Greek, living alone in an enormous, rambling house. I
scarcely liked to leave him even while I came to meet you.”

Cassels cursed under his breath and lit a cigarette.

“I’m beastly sorry,” said Bruton, “but what can I do? If anything should
happen to him I should blame myself for ever.”

“Oh, you’re doing quite the right thing, old son,” Cassels assured him,
“but what a damned ass the man is! It makes me sick the way young fools
carry on about women.”

“But he’s not a fool. As self-contained and manly a chap as you could
wish to meet. Now, listen. What I propose to do is this. We’ll go and
seek him now, have breakfast together, and persuade him to come back
with us to my place. I can easily put him up. Wherever we go we’ll take
him with us. He wants pulling out of himself, and in a day or two he’ll
probably be all right. But just at present he’s dangerous--dangerous to
himself, I mean, though I may tell you I’ve got his revolver all right.
But here we are.”

The car slowed down and stopped in front of a big white house with green
shutters, standing well back from the road. A great wooden gate barred
their way. In response to their ring, an oldish man came hurrying from
the house.

“Everything all right?” asked Bruton.

“Yes, sir. Mister Cyril’s digging in the garden.”

And at the back of the house they found Gascoyne, a fair handsome fellow
with blue eyes and freckles; he wore no coat, and his open white shirt
revealed a magnificent chest.

Shaking hands with Dick Cassels, he invited them indoors.

“Coffee and things are waiting for you,” he said.

“Good!” exclaimed Cassels; “for I’m dreadfully hungry. On the boat we’ve
been breakfasting at 10.30. Such a rummy breakfast! Wine and rolls and
_hors d'œuvres_ and cheese.”

They stepped into the house and entered a large cool room with
whitewashed walls; the pine-wood floor was bare except for an occasional
Persian rug whose smooth colours held and gratified the eye.

“Do help yourselves,” said Gascoyne. “No, don’t. Sit in these easy
chairs and I’ll wait on you.”

His fresh face was a little haggard and his eyes glittered. He busied
himself with cups, plates, and food, and when his friends had begun
eating, he eagerly and tremblingly seized a decanter of whisky, filled a
champagne-glass to the brim, and drank it off neat in two gulps.

“Oh, I say,” exclaimed Cassels, “I didn’t know you had any whisky
there. Do give me some.”

“Certainly. I’ll get you some soda.”

When Gascoyne had left the room, Bruton turned to his friend.

“What on earth are you drinking whisky for at this time of the morning?”

“Well, the great thing is not to let your friend think he is doing
anything unusual. He knows we are watching him carefully, and a watched
man always poses. He is suffering, and perhaps he is a little
unhinged--all the more reason why we should not only make no comment on
what he does, but should behave ourselves as nearly as possible in the
same way that he does.”

“I wonder,” said Bruton.

Gascoyne entered with three or four bottles of soda-water.

“Oh, really, you shouldn’t have troubled,” protested Cassels, “for I’d
much rather have it neat. I’m sick of red wine, and they hadn’t even a
drop of whisky on board.”

And he helped himself to a glassful.

“How shall we spend the morning, Cyril?” asked Bruton. “Shall we drive
to the Acropolis and sleep for an hour in the shade of the Parthenon?”

Gascoyne looked at him curiously for a moment, and then laughed.

“What a funny old thing you are!” he said. “No. Been to Athens before?”
he asked Cassels.

“No--this is my first visit.”

“Very well, then. We’ll go to the Acropolis to-night. There’s a full
moon, and one’s first sight of the Acropolis should always be by
moonlight. This morning we’ll take the car to Eleusis. There are
Mysteries there,” he added, darkly, “undiscoverable Mysteries. The
Temple of Demeter is now a confusion of broken stones. We can bathe
there. The sea is blue.”

He drank more whisky and still more, and while his friends ate their
breakfast he had continual recourse to the decanter. But he exhibited
none of the more obvious signs of intoxication: his voice and gait were
steady; only his eyes were wild, and his face strained.

After pacing the room for a short while, he sat down in a deck-chair
facing his friends.

“Finished?” he asked. “Do have some more. Those oranges were plucked
only this morning. No? Well, then, come upstairs with me: I’ve got
something rather magnificent I want to show you.”

He rose and led the way from the room. The house was full of greenish
light reflected from the half-open shutters. The staircase leading to
the upper story was made of white marble flushed gently with pink.
Gascoyne, opening a door, said:

“This is my bedroom.”

They entered and he pointed to a plaster cast of a woman’s head nailed
upon the wall opposite the window. Walking to the window, they
half-seated themselves upon the dressing-table there and looked at the
cast. Instinctively, Cassels knew it was Gascoyne’s love.

“It is very beautiful,” said he softly.

The face had the inscrutable smile of La Gioconda; there was mystery in
the mouth, imagination in the eyes, and holiness dwelt on her brows.

“Who did it?” asked Bruton.

“Some artist chap,” answered Gascoyne; “as a matter of fact,” he
continued, carelessly, “the man she’s run away with. He’s very clever,
don’t you think?”

He walked up to it, as though scrutinizing it for the first time; then,
returning, he put his face close to the face of Bruton and said:

“Damned little devil, isn’t she?”

But it was Cassels who answered him.

“She has the most wonderful face I have ever seen,” he said; “the
kindest face. But, then, nearly all faces are masks. That, I suppose, is
what they’re for--to deceive, I mean.”

“Outside,” said Gascoyne, “I have the most gorgeous view.”

They turned and looked. The windows were wide open. Beneath them was a
thick, undulating carpet of pear-blossom as thick as a heavy fall of
snow, and as brilliant as snow in the sun. The orchard was several acres
in extent. In the distance were blue mountains; the sky above them had a
faint tinge of purple.

“Good Lord! How wonderful!” exclaimed Cassels. “And is this Greece or
Paradise?”

“It was both--till yesterday,” said Gascoyne. “Now it’s hell. By the
way, Cassels, are you a good shot with a revolver?”

“Pretty fair. At least, I used to be, but I’ve had no practice for
years.”

“I wonder if you can shoot as well as this.”

And on the instant he turned round and, at arm’s length, held out a
Webley, pointing it straight at the cast on the opposite wall. In rapid
succession he fired six rounds, smashing the cast into a hundred pieces.
His friends, standing one on either side of him, looked on without a
word or movement.

“Rather good shooting,” said Cassels, at length, as though it were the
most ordinary thing in the world to pour lead into bedroom walls after
breakfast.

Bruton, pale and trembling, exclaimed:

“But I thought I’d taken your revolver!”

“Have you taken my other revolver?” asked Gascoyne, his face working
with anger. “What the devil for? Where is it? Give it me now. Get it, I
tell you! Who in God’s name are you to come here stealing the things I
may want at any minute?”

Bruton put his hand on Gascoyne’s arm.

“Don’t be angry with me, Cyril,” he said, penitently. “I was a fool to
do it, I know. But I was so upset last night--I scarcely knew what I was
doing.”

“But why did you take it?”

But again it was Cassels who answered him.

“He told me on the way here why he had taken it. He was afraid you would
find the--the other man and kill him.”

Gascoyne’s face cleared a little.

“In any case, it was a damned silly thing to do,” he said.

“I know it was,” said Bruton, “but you’ve forgiven me, haven’t you? It’s
up at my place--I’ll get it you this afternoon or some time to-morrow.
Look here, Cyril. Why not come and stay with me? I’ve plenty of room.
It’ll be a change for you.”

“Thanks. But I don’t want a change. As a matter of fact, I’m damned
tired. I think I’ll go to sleep.”

He was still holding his revolver, but now he put it down on the
dressing-table with a gesture of disgust.

“I’ll not go with you to Eleusis,” he added. “Use my car, won’t you?
You’ll find it round at the hotel garage, and Eurinikos will drive you
if you want him. I’ll call for you to-night after dinner, and we’ll all
go together to the Acropolis.”

“Right,” said Cassels.

“But are you sure you’ll be able to sleep?” asked Bruton, involuntarily
glancing at the revolver.

“Of course I shall be able to sleep,” answered Gascoyne, irritably; “why
the hell shouldn’t I?” He hesitated a moment. “Well, good-bye for the
present,” he added, in a matter-of-fact voice.

“See you to-night, then,” said Cassels, smiling frankly.

The two friends left Gascoyne, Bruton closing the door in careful
silence. Out in the street, he asked:

“What do you think of him?”

“Look here, Harry,” said Cassels, “let’s not talk about it at all. If
you think you ought to stay with him we’ll wait downstairs until he
wakes up. But if you think he can be safely left, let’s go out for the
day together and forget all about him. With a chap like that you don’t
know how much is sincere and how much is acting. Probably the poor devil
doesn’t know himself.”

“But he’s got his revolver with him!”

“Yes, he has. What then?”

“He may use it.”

“Precisely. For Heaven’s sake, Harry, do make up your mind what you are
going to do. But let me tell you this--your presence irritates him, and
it is much better for him to be left alone.”

“Well, then, we’ll leave him. We go this way for the garage.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Dinner that night at the Minerva Hotel was rather a dull affair, for
Bruton even at the third course began to fidget about Gascoyne and to
wonder if his friend were lying dead in his bedroom.

“Let’s have some wine, Harry,” said Cassels. “What’s that golden booze
the people at the next table are drinking?”

“Some native stuff--Olympus they call it, I think.”

“Well, we’ll have a bottle--two bottles.”

But the more Bruton drank the more despondent he became, and over coffee
and liqueurs he said:

“It’s quite time he was here. Half-past nine.”

“For heaven’s sake, do keep calm. We can do nothing but wait.”

“Yes, I know. But I feel we ought not to have left him alone all day.
How rotten he would feel when he woke up! And, in his present condition,
he may be annoyed that we’ve come here to dine. I do hope my servant has
given him my note telling him where to find us.”

He moved restlessly, and then rose to his feet. An idea had struck him.
It was possible Gascoyne had left a note or a message for him at his
flat across the way.

“Excuse me a minute, won’t you? I’ve left something at my flat that I
want.”

He hurried away. In five minutes he was back again, holding a note in
his hand.

“He left this at my flat this afternoon,” said Bruton, agitatedly; “what
does it mean?”

Cassels read the following.

     _I’m not coming to-night. I’m staying at home. All the loveliness
     of the world has become cruel. Sympathy is an intrusion and
     kindness bruises. Yet if you and your friend would like to come and
     get drunk with me to-night, you will be welcome._

“I understand his mood well enough,” said Cassels. “We’d better be
getting along, hadn’t we? The best thing we can do is to let him drink
himself to sleep. To-morrow we’ll put the screw on.”

They hurried down the road and in a quarter of an hour had reached the
big white house with the green shutters. In the moonlight it looked
insubstantial, ethereal, like some enormous ghostly bird preparing for
flight. The door of the main entrance showed there was a light in the
hall, and through the half-closed shutters of one of the rooms on the
ground-floor more light revealed itself.

They rang, but there was no response. Nor did their knocking evoke any
movement they could hear. Ringing and knocking alternately, they stood
for five minutes or so, speaking little, but into the hearts of both of
them fear had begun to creep.

“Damned funny!” said Bruton, at length. “Look here, Dick, will you stay
where you are while I go and investigate? He may be in the garden
somewhere, or he might have dropped off to sleep in one of the
outhouses.”

Cassels, sitting down on the top step, lit his pipe. Summing up the
situation and attempting to calculate the chances of Gascoyne’s having
committed suicide, he muttered: “More than likely--more than likely. A
chap like that might do it just for the sake of making an effect--just
to give the whole affair its proper dramatic close.”

Bruton was a long time away. At last he returned, running.

“Are you there, Dick? No: I’ve found nothing. He’s not there. I’ve tried
all the windows I can get at, but they’re all locked. His servant sleeps
out, and I don’t know where to get hold of him. We must break one of the
windows.”

“Yes, I suppose we must, if it’s only to ease our own minds. This damned
business is getting on my nerves.”

They selected the smallest window, broke it open, and entered the house.

“You’d better let me go first,” said Cassels, “my nerves are a bit
steadier than yours.”

They entered the lit-up room--the room in which they had breakfasted. It
was untenanted. The decanter which, earlier in the day, had been half
full was now empty; by its side was a bottle of brandy holding a third
of its original contents. Without a word, acting on the same impulse,
they left the room, ascended the stairs and entered Gascoyne’s bedroom.
This also was untenanted. Near the door the floor was covered with the
debris of the shattered cast. Bruton walked to and almost pounced upon
the dressing-table, opening one drawer after another.

“His revolver’s gone,” he said, as if the final word had been spoken.

“Is there a piano in the house?”

“Yes--why?”

“Let’s go and play it. It’ll pull us together a bit. After all, what is
there more likely than that he’s gone for a long tramp? Or he might have
changed his mind and gone to your place after all. In any case we can do
nothing now but wait.”

A little comforted, Bruton led the way to the music-room.

“Play something, Dick: I’m too shaky,” he said.

So Cassels played some of the humane if rather turgid music of Schumann
in which one may always find balm for the poisoned mind. The brooding
sound brought them both consolation for a time, but at length Bruton’s
mind wandered away from the music, and he began to tease and lacerate
his spirit with horrible thoughts.

“Supposing he is lying dead in a cupboard somewhere,” something
whispered to him, “or in a bath. He might have cut a vein and even at
this moment be bleeding to death. Or he might have gone on to the roof.”
Then, rising from his chair, he said, hurriedly:

“Dick--we must go and look for him--we must go and find him!”

At the first word Cassels’ fingers dropped lifeless on the keys.

“I was thinking the same thing myself,” he said. “We’ll do the
ground-floor first.”

Slowly and in silence they went from one room to another, switching on
the electric lights and looking in every place--likely and
unlikely--which a man might have chosen to hide his own dead body in.
The rooms, for the most part, were large and sparsely furnished, and a
mere glance was in many cases sufficient to assure them that there, at
least, no tragedy had been enacted. But in a narrow, long passage
leading to the back premises, and in the back premises themselves, were
many cupboards. These they opened one by one and, striking matches,
peered inside.

“Damn the whole business!” exclaimed Bruton; “my legs feel like jelly.
Each time I look I expect to see--something.”

And Cassels found that the hand with which he held the matches on high
trembled. His body was cold and he felt sick.

Nothing on the ground-floor. In the room upstairs there was much more
furniture, and they feverishly opened the lids of boxes and ottomans,
looked under beds, pulled open the doors of wardrobes, and searched
behind curtains. Coming out of the third bedroom they had searched, they
both suddenly stood still with a sensation of terrible and grotesque
fear: Gascoyne was standing at the doorway, leaning drunkenly against
the jamb and watching them.

“Looking for me?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Cassels, who was the first to collect himself; “we thought
you had fallen asleep in one of the bedrooms. We’ve come to drink with
you.”

“Drunk enough,” said Gascoyne. “Been drinking all day. However, you
fellows help yourselves: plenty of drink downstairs. Staying the night?
Good. I’m going to bed. Choose your own rooms. S’long.”

He groped his way to his bedroom. Bruton followed him. Cassels, standing
in the passage, heard the following conversation.

“Are you sure you’re all right, Cyril?”

“Course I’m all right. Why the hell shouldn’t I be all right? What’s the
matter with me, eh? That’s what I want to know--what’s the matter with
me?”

“Oh--nothing. Of course there’s nothing. Good night, then.”

Bruton emerged from the room pale and excited. When they had reached the
foot of the stairs, he whispered:

“I’ve got it. I’ve got his revolver. I took it out of his coat-pocket.
Look! All six chambers are loaded.”

After a drink the two friends, choosing separate rooms, went to bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

It must have been about three o’clock next morning that Cyril Gascoyne
awoke with an intolerable thirst. For a little while he lay wondering
where he was and trying to remember the events of the previous day. Like
a nightmare they came to him, and with them came a feeling of
self-disgust.

Sitting up in bed he groped about for his coat and, taking a box of
matches from one of his pockets, struck a light. Some blind instinct
made him feel in the right-hand side-pocket to discover if his revolver
was still there. The pocket was empty.

In a flash he jumped out of bed and turned on the light.

“Damn him!” he muttered; “he’s got them both now!”

And then his brain, overwrought and dizzied with the fumes of alcohol,
began to breed the thoughts and desires of madness.

“So Bruton thought I was going to commit suicide, did he? And he’s tried
to outwit me! The damned fool! Why, blast it, if I’d wanted to shoot
myself I would have shot myself. Why not? But I’ll show him. He can’t
get the better of me--I’m damned if he can.”

He chuckled with insane laughter, and his eyes became deep with cunning.
Having turned out the electric light, he lit a candle, noiselessly
opened the door, and listened. Not a sound. Yes: breathing--the sound of
someone breathing deeply in his sleep. He crept along the passage,
stopped and listened again. The sound came from the room on his right,
the door of which was open. For a brief second he looked inside: it was
Bruton, fast asleep.

Gascoyne had no doubt at all that his revolver lay under the pillow
beneath Bruton’s head. He was as confident it was there as if he had
seen it. He extinguished the candle, put it on the floor, and crept into
the bedroom on his hands and knees, making no sound, and breathing
through both mouth and nostrils. His fingers slid along the mattress
until they reached the pillows. Then for a minute he paused. Gently,
gently his open hand felt its way inch by inch, pressing itself hard
upon the mattress. Again he paused. The sleeper did not move. Then, once
more, his hand began its stealthy work, exploring, sensitive,
apprehensive....

In ten minutes he was sitting on the floor holding the revolver, sweat
on his forehead, a dreadful dryness in his throat. And now he rose to
his feet and walked quickly and agitatedly but very silently to his own
room, locking the door behind him.

“I’ll show him!” he muttered. “I’ll teach him to meddle.”

Taking a thick eiderdown quilt from a cupboard, he spread it carefully
on the bed. Then, with the revolver still in his hand, he crept
head-first beneath the clothes, dragging them closely around him....

No one heard the shot that was fired....

Not until the marvellous April dawn of Greece came that morning did
Bruton wake up and, jumping out of bed, try oh! so quietly to open
Gascoyne’s door. For, if Gascoyne slept, he did not wish to wake him.



THE VICTIM

To
Marcel Xystobam



I suppose there are few civilian prisons in the Near East more humanely
conducted and governed than the cosmopolitan Citadel of Salonika. Yet
the Citadel is most inhuman. Men rot there: their brains rot, and their
bodies become flabby, sickly and inert.

If, as a casual and inquiring visitor, you enter through the archway,
you will be told to go to the right and then make a sudden turn to the
left into a kind of cage which leads you to a staircase; mounting the
stairs, you reach a platform placed high in the true centre of a circle.
The circle below you is divided into four roofless segments: in one
segment are Greeks; in another, Bulgars; in the third, Turks; in the
fourth, Armenians, Montenegrins, Spanish Jews, and men of many other
nationalities. The prisoners are separated by high walls; for if they
mingled with each other they would fight, and perhaps kill; but
well-behaved victims of law, if they choose, may leave for a short time
one segment for another.

The Citadel is inhuman because the men living there are not compelled to
work. Any work is better than none. Even a treadmill is a boon compared
with everlasting indolence. I have been there many times and,
fascinated, have watched young men sitting with their backs to the
walls, staring with unfocussed eyes at--nothing. Always staring at
nothing and, no doubt, thinking of nothing, and hoping nothing and
regretting nothing.

For this reason they decay.

       *       *       *       *       *

Euripitos Cavalcini--half Greek, half Italian--had not yet recovered
from the shock of his arrest, trial and sentence. Three months ago he
was one of the proudest men in Salonika--nay, one of the most
overbearing, one of the most insolent. He owned much land, two
breweries, and four streets of houses in the slums; he kept a flaunting
large-bosomed courtesan; he was a patron of the arts, and the walls of
two of his large rooms sported many of Rops’ indecencies. He commanded
respect, admiration. As soon as he entered a bank, lo! the manager was
by his side. And before he had time to sit down at a restaurant table,
the head waiter was reporting to him the latest additions to his
wine-cellar.

But successful and magnificent though Euripitos Cavalcini was, he had
his limitations. Life intoxicated him, and his grandiose vanity was an
incessant drug. In Salonika there were cleverer men than he, and when he
floated the India Bazaar Company with a capital of half-a-million, he
felt strong enough to own half the world as enemies. But he was found
out. The colossal swindle ruined many families, and even before he was
pronounced guilty great crowds of men and women would gather round the
court to cast insult upon him as he was taken in and escorted out.

The sentence of two years’ imprisonment broke him. His magnificence
fell from him in a single hour, and the insolent, hot spirit of him
became abased and cringing.

That is why, when in the Citadel, he was so humble. The lord of life had
become life’s slave. He was afraid of the meanest and most wretched of
his fellow-prisoners. Life had turned upon him once and brought him to
the dust, and some dark fear warned him that even yet life had not had
its full revenge.

So he humbled himself and served others. The courtesan whom he had loved
used, twice a week, to bring him food--cooked meats, fruit and sometimes
a bottle of wine. These he would press into the hands of
others--especially those who eyed him with contempt or who were harsh to
him. Particularly did he cultivate the friendship of the big and strong,
partly because he feared them, and partly because he hoped that in time
of need--physical need--they would come to his defence.

Soon he became the victim of a great bearded man with small eyes of
cunning, a man who, towering contemptuously above others, strode up and
down the prison half his waking hours, his thick bare arms folded on his
chest, his head set defiantly upon a bullock-like neck. This man was
named Aristides, and it was said he was there because he had half-killed
a demirep who had not kept faith with him.

“Take this, Aristides,” said Cavalcini, one afternoon, pulling a bottle
of wine from beneath his cloak and furtively handing it to the bearded
giant who was striding hither and thither.

Aristides, taking the bottle by the neck, held it up above his head
against the sky’s brilliant blue.

“It is full?” he asked.

“Yes, it is full. And I have some grapes also.”

A big bunch of grapes changed hands. Aristides, having torn off a
mouthful with his teeth, chewed them meditatively, spat out the skins on
Cavalcini’s feet, and then stared down on his victim.

“Anything else?” he asked, loudly.

“No,” faltered Cavalcini.

With a snarling smile of amused contempt, Aristides resumed his walk.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were terrible hours when Cavalcini gave way to morbid
introspection. There was nothing in him that he kept sacred from
himself; there was nothing so vile that he did not wish to understand
it. Yet this habit of introspection dragged him deeper and deeper into
dejection.

One morning he threw himself on the ground near the wall and covered his
face with his cloak.

“Why am I so afraid?” he asked himself. “What harm can come to me here?
Aristides will not hurt me. Aristides is my friend.”

Presently, he slept. It was a burning July day, and here, in this
roofless prison, the air burned one’s skin. There was a faint, foul
odour. The hard, enamelled sky and the sun beating on the walls mocked
the prisoners. The sentry on the little raised platform in their midst
looked pale and ill. A boy-prisoner--he had stabbed his mother--moaned
occasionally in his sleep. There was little sound in any of the prison’s
four compartments, for everyone was lying down exhausted--some asleep,
some merely stupefied. Everyone except Aristides. The giant, saturnine
and insolent, promenaded like an emperor who has covered himself with
degradation. His eyes, examining the sweating men around him, picked out
Cavalcini. Walking up to him, he kicked his victim on the buttocks.
Cavalcini lifted his head and, seeing Aristides, staggered to his feet.

“Walk with me!” commanded Aristides.

For a full hour they strode up and down, no word passing between them,
Cavalcini apprehensive and trembling, Aristides bearing himself as
though ten thousand eyes were upon him.

       *       *       *       *       *

A slow month crawled from the future into the past. There were
hours--especially at night time when all the prisoners lay herded
together in the big room upstairs--in which Cavalcini took the edge off
his suffering by thoughts and half-formulated plans of escape. In his
heart he knew he would never escape, that he would never attempt it, but
it gave him pleasure to devise schemes for eluding the sentry, for
scaling the walls, for leaving Salonika for the freer world of
Marseilles or Port Said.

One day he thought he would curry favour with Aristides by talking to
him of his plans. So, very humbly and with his eyes on the ground, he
walked over to where the big bearded man was standing.

“I’ve had something on my mind for a long time past,” he began;
“something in which you might be willing to help me.”

“Well,” said Aristides, “what is it?”

“Escape--escape from this den--this den of animals.”

His companion laughed.

“Isn’t that what most of us have been thinking of ever since we came
here? Try again: think of something new.”

“But it could be done. I’m sure of it.”

“Can you scale the wall?” asked Aristides, nodding towards the outer
wall that seemed to tower in the sky.

“No. But I might walk through gates that are locked and barred.”

“How? Speak out. Don’t play with _me_.”

“I mean bribery. I have money--plenty of money. That is to say, I can
get plenty.”

“How much?”

“A thousand drachmæ. Ten thousand drachmæ.”

“Ho-ho?”

Aristides spat.

“You want my help?” he asked.

“I thought we might get away together,” said Cavalcini, afraid of what
he had already spoken, and horrified at the things he yet might utter.
“Two can sometimes contrive a thing that is impossible for one,” he
added.

“Well,” said Aristides, “ten thousand drachmæ would not be enough. Can
you get twenty thousand?”

“I might. I will try. My friend is coming this afternoon with my food. I
will ask her what she can do.”

And as Aristides stood silently contemptuous, Cavalcini turned miserably
away, feeling that he had committed himself to some frightful scheme he
could not possibly carry out, and that he had done so to no purpose, for
it was obvious Aristides was no better disposed towards him now than he
had been before.

“I must not talk to anyone again,” he said to himself; “my nerve is
gone, and I say things I do not mean.”

It was true he could get the sum of money he had named, but it was not
true that he wished to attempt to escape. Only heroes and very desperate
men escaped from that prison, and he was too deeply involved in misery
to be desperate. But when his mistress came and he spoke to her for a
few moments, as the prison rules permitted, he told her how to get the
money.

“Bring it next time you come--bring it in hundred-drachmæ notes. Wrap
them into a little parcel and when you are talking to me, slip it into
this pocket of my tunic. I will stand as I am standing now. But be very
careful you are not observed.”

“But where shall you go when you escape?”

“I don’t know,” he said, miserably.

She looked at him with eyes of compassion, took him in her arms and
kissed him.

A few days later she called again, and passed the money into his pocket,
unobserved.

“Don’t get yourself into worse trouble than you are in now, _mon
p’tit_,” she said, her eyes full of tears.

He took the notes to Aristides, retaining five hundred drachmæ for
himself, of which he told Aristides nothing.

“I have brought you the money,” he said.

Aristides’ small eyes almost disappeared into his head with greed and
cunning.

“Do not give me it now,” he said; “many eyes are upon us. That swine of
a sentry is looking. Wait until we go to bed.”

And he turned on his heel and began walking disdainfully to and fro.

Now, at the time of which I am writing, the sentry on duty over the
prisoners in the Citadel was relieved every two hours. By day there was
only one sentry; by night there were two--one in the “compound,” one on
the gallery above. Against one of these men Aristides nursed a fanatical
hatred. They had known each other for a long time; indeed, they were
both from the same mountain village; but they had not met for many
years. Critias had married the girl Aristides loved, and though she was
now dead and Critias had come down in the world, nevertheless
Aristides’ hatred had flamed anew at sight of his old enemy. Nor had
Critias wished for a reconciliation; on the contrary, he had sought
every opportunity to revile and taunt Aristides in his state of bondage.
Aristides had sworn to have revenge on the sentry before he left the
prison, and so near was his hatred and so dear was the thought of
vengeance, that he could not persuade himself to attempt to escape until
he had done his worst against his old enemy.

As he walked hither and thither, his thick hairy arms folded on his
chest, his chin on his bosom, he matured the half-formed plans that had
come to his mind on the first occasion on which Cavalcini had spoken to
him of escape. His term of imprisonment had only three more months to
run: he would gladly serve those months if he could compass the death of
his enemy, throw the guilt upon another, and secure at least a
substantial portion of the money Cavalcini possessed.

The whole thing was so simple that he smiled contemptuously at Cavalcini
as he passed him.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night as they were preparing for bed, Cavalcini once more offered
the money to Aristides.

“Give me half,” said the giant, “and keep the other half for yourself. I
will tell you my plans to-morrow.”

“But where shall I hide it?” asked Cavalcini.

“Where I hide mine--in the pocket of your robe. Nobody would think of
looking there for valuables.”

And he ostentatiously put the notes Cavalcini had given him in the
inside pocket of his robe.

But before an hour had gone Aristides had secretly removed them to the
middle of the straw in his mattress.

Cavalcini could not sleep. His head was hot and light with anxiety. He
would, he knew, have to attempt to escape with Aristides, yet the
prospect of this attempt terrified him. But Aristides, it was evident,
was depending upon him, and he did not dare to disappoint him.

Because of his apprehensiveness, Cavalcini’s senses became abnormally
keen, and it was with a feeling of nausea that he felt the sour odour of
his fellow-prisoners as they turned in their beds. He could hear a low
voice in distress at the far end of the room, and he told himself that
it must be the wretched boy-prisoner talking in his sleep.

And then he became aware of someone moving: there was no sound, and the
sense of movement was not conveyed to his brain by his eyes. It was as
though stealthy and impending disaster were in the air, impinging on his
brain through some unknown sense-channel.

He raised his head an inch and saw the bulky form of Aristides
approaching. Cavalcini shook with fear. The giant was undressed, and his
form, without his long, flowing robe, seemed much larger and stronger
than when fully clad. Nearer and nearer he crept until he reached
Cavalcini’s bed, where he stopped. The little man simulated sleep, but
under his lids his eyes watched what might befall. Aristides took
Cavalcini’s robe from the end of his bed and donned it; it fitted
grotesquely. Then, in silence, he passed the foot of the bed and made
his way to the treacherous, winding stone stairway leading to the four
compartments below.

Terrified, hypnotized, Cavalcini sat up in bed, crawled to its foot, and
watched this wanderer in the night. He saw Aristides--for there was a
moon--descend the steps and crawl by the side of the wall as cruelly and
as sinuously as a tiger. The sentry, twenty yards from Aristides,
appeared to be facing him, but it seemed certain he saw nothing, for he
made no movement and called out no challenge. Aristides stopped,
advanced a little, and stopped again, crouching. His body was so tightly
squeezed against the wall that to Cavalcini it seemed to have become
part of it. For a long time he did not move. But when the sentry turned
his back on the would-be murderer and with slow regular paces began to
walk away from him, Aristides rushed forward with a bound. Cavalcini
could not see what happened next, but he caught the glint of a knife
raised on high, and a few seconds later he saw the sentry lying
motionless on the ground and the giant running back to the stone
stairway. It had all taken in place in absolute silence. For a few
moments Cavalcini did not realize what had happened. When, at last, he
understood, his brain seemed to freeze with horror. Trembling, he sank
back on his pillow and shut his eyes. He dared not move: it was
dangerous even to breathe. He felt, rather than saw Aristides return and
pass his bed, and he knew that his robe had been replaced.

Silence, save for the rapid, distressed muttering of a boy-prisoner at
the far end of the room. After what had happened, it seemed an outrage
that the night should continue. Cavalcini, feeling himself to be the
victim of evil powers it was useless to resist, lay shivering with cold
in the warm night, saying to himself over and over again.

“He has killed the wrong man! Why didn’t he kill me? He has killed the
wrong man! Why didn’t he kill me?”

Suddenly, down in the “compound” below, a voice, sharp and clear, rang
out. The guard was being summoned. The body had been found. Armed
soldiers entered. Torches and candles were brought. Orders were given
and countermanded. Swords were drawn and bayonets fixed. In two or three
minutes the soldiers began to climb the stairway and take up positions
along the gallery, fifteen paces apart, by the prisoners’ beds. A shrill
whistle was blown many times until all the prisoners were awake.

“Every man will sit up in bed!” called out the officer in charge of the
guard, speaking alternately in several languages. “If anyone attempts to
get out of bed, he will be shot.”

And then began a systematic search. Cavalcini only dimly realized what
was happening, but when the officer and a sergeant reached his bed he
became a ghastly victim of terror. His very looks condemned him. The
officer eyed him with searching suspicion.

“Get out of bed and stand up!” he ordered.

Cavalcini put his feet on the floor and attempted to stand, but he
collapsed on the bed, a miserable heap of quaking fear.

“Blood!” exclaimed the sergeant. “Look! There’s blood on his gown!”

“Stand up!” commanded the officer.

Cavalcini slipped to the floor and crawled forward on his hands and
knees, gibbering.

Then the officer, searching the pockets of Cavalcini’s gown, pulled out
a handful of hundred-drachma notes.

“Arrest him!” he said, calmly.

Cavalcini was pulled on to his feet and half-dragged, half-carried to
the dark little hole, less than four feet high, that is to be found in
the stone wall at the top of the stairway.

There he lay in a muddled heap, bereft of sense, every nerve quivering.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three months later, Aristides, with his woman, was dining at one of the
flashy restaurants on the quay-side.

“Tell me!” she said, pressing her foot upon his and rubbing his calf
against her knee; “tell me! Where did you get all your money?”

“Well,” said he, smiling at her cunningly, “it was given me by a great
friend of mine in prison. He used to give me half of everything he had.
Poor devil! He’s dead. They shot him. He didn’t behave himself very
well. He murdered one of the sentries.”



TRENCH MADNESS

To
Ellary Warden



Le Grand Couronné was the last of the mountain peaks to disappear in the
darkness that so quickly follows twilight in Greece. To Valentine
Latimer, excited by malaria, it seemed to curtesy as it went. He raised
himself on to the fire-step, took off the gauze mask that protected his
face from mosquitoes, and handed it to his orderly.

“Won’t you keep it on, sir?” asked his orderly; “the mosquitoes are out
in their millions to-night.”

“It’ll make no difference,” said Latimer, “and I can’t breathe with that
damned thing smothering me.... How heavy the air is!”

His servant stood behind him leaning with his back against the rock
trench-wall, his head--so tall was he--almost touching the parados.

“We’d better visit the sentry-groups, Morgan,” said Latimer.

The man had slung his rifle, but Latimer did not move. He was listening
to the fitful rustle of the trees immediately overhead. The sound
reminded him of his father’s garden at home--the garden in which he had
spent the happiest hours of his life. The little breeze went its way,
and almost immediately a sour smell stole up from the trench. Into his
fevered brain came the word “decay ... decay,” and stayed there like a
drop of poison.

“Everything is strangely quiet,” he observed.

“Yes, sir,” said Morgan.

And, indeed, the silence was as heavy as the heavy air. Latimer had the
curious feeling that he and his orderly were the only people in that
country-side, and when a cough broke upon the stillness, he started.

“That’s number two group,” said he, mechanically; “Corporal Davies is in
charge there, eh, Morgan?”

Some sickly lines of Edgar Allen Poe started up in his brain and began
to race along it, repeating themselves again and again. Though he was a
little worried by their repetition, they gave him a sense of romance, of
power.

“We’ll start from the ravine and work upwards,” he said, stepping onto
the duck-boards.

Though both officer and servant were well acquainted with those steep
and winding trenches, they had to feel their way along, so black was the
night, so ineffective the light of the glinting and eager stars. They
came upon a group of men in a fire-bay; two of them, stretched on the
fire-step, were asleep. The sentry on duty stood looking over the top of
the trench; by his side was the N.C.O. in charge of the group.

“Everything all right, Corporal?” asked Latimer, in a low voice.

“Everything, sir,” whispered the corporal.

A few yards further on, Latimer stopped. He wanted to cry out. He longed
to scream wildly and break this conspiracy of silence. Suddenly, it
seemed to him as though the entire country-side were for a brief second
illuminated by a magnificent burst of light: Le Grand Couronné was
revealed from top to toe; in the slits crinkling the breasts and flanks
of the mountain he saw dark, bearded Bulgars, bullet-headed and
yellow-toothed. They were all gazing at him with cruel, malignant
eyes.... The hallucination passed.

“I feel ill, Morgan,” he said.

Morgan, a man twice Latimer’s age--for Latimer was still in his
teens--took from his pocket a bottle of tabloids.

“You ought to have gone sick this morning, sir,” said Morgan; “or,
better still, let me take you to the telephone dug-out.... Have a drink
from my water-bottle, sir.... Ask Captain Mitchell to send another
officer out to relieve you.”

“Oh, no; I’ll stick it out. But let me have a drink.”

But the water had none of the virtue of water: it was tepid and sickly,
and it tasted slightly of grease....

The sound of a single rifle-shot from the enemy’s lines ripped the
silence. It meant nothing: it _was_ nothing. Yet Latimer cursed beneath
his breath.

“Let’s get on,” he said, and proceeded to feel his way towards the
ravine.

In a few minutes they reached it. Here was another sentry-group.
Assuring himself that all was in order, he began to retrace his steps.
He was conscious of nothing except the procession of fantasies and
memories within his brain: verses he had written last year beneath the
young flowering laburnum in his father’s garden; a girl’s hand in which
his heart seemed to be inevitably cupped; a flannelled figure, with a
rapid, crushing serve, on the other side of the tennis-net; barbaric
music from “Boris Godounov,” which he had heard in that wonderful
summer of 1914; a great day on the river with his friend. At first these
memories came singly; then they clustered together horribly and seemed
to menace him.

“Fever: just fever,” he assured himself.

“Yes--just fever,” echoed his orderly.

Latimer turned upon him with his arms outstretched.

“Did I talk aloud?” he asked, in dread.

“Why, yes, sir. Weren’t you speaking to me?”

Soon their way became very steep, for the system of trenches took the
side of a hill: here and there they were compelled to climb with hands
as well as feet. When near the top of the hill, Latimer took off his
heavy metal helmet and wiped his wet forehead with the back of his hand.

“Only one more sentry post, thank God!” he said.

Then, suddenly, an enemy battery opened fire on that sector of which
Latimer had temporary charge. Most of the shells dropped in the Little
Wood down below. A machine-gun from La Tortue, on their right flank,
chattered incessantly, and two trench-mortars from the same place shook
the air and shattered it.

Latimer hurried down the hill with his orderly behind him. In five
minutes they were in the Little Wood. All the shells were dropping
short. This sort of thing was likely to continue at intervals all night:
it was the enemy’s usual procedure.

In the Little Wood, which smelt so stalely, Latimer sat down and
suddenly began to vomit. His orderly stood by regarding him
compassionately; he took a handkerchief from his pocket and handed it to
his master. In a few minutes Latimer, trembling and cold, rose and
started to creep down the trench to the ravine....

A few hours later dawn began to paint the sky yellow, and the mountains
moved out of the dark and assumed their daily places. In half-an-hour
Latimer would be relieved.

“Report yourself to Sergeant Black, Morgan: I shan’t want you any more.”

He turned for a second to give his orderly a ghost of a smile, and then,
placing his arms on the parapet, watched what was happening to the
mountains and the sky. His large eyes glistened.

“Oh, how beautiful! How very beautiful!” he exclaimed aloud, as he gazed
at the violet mist at the feet of the Belashitza Mountains. “I do wish
father was here.... I do wish father....”

“Hello, Latimer! How goes it?”

The boy turned round: his company commander was standing behind him,
looking at him curiously.

“You see how it is, sir,” said Latimer, gravely, “When night goes....”

His eyes quickly became dilated, and he swayed a little.

“You’re ill, laddie. Come back to Headquarters with me.”

“Fever--just fever. People have been playing tennis in my head all
night. And Morgan’s killed. I wish I was dead myself.”

His lips trembled and a dry sob shook his shoulders.

“I do wish father was here,” he said.



LOOT

To
Frank Harris



In their little flat between Rue Egnatia and the northern end of Rue
Venizelos, Marie and Alys Cruchot deemed themselves safe from the great
fire which, no one quite knew how, broke out in Salonika that oppressive
Sunday in August, 1917. Their habit of holding themselves aloof from
their neighbours, of disdaining even to recognize their neighbours’
existence, had isolated them from all local news, and in the hours of
excitement that filled Sunday evening they held themselves more proudly
than ever. The fire was a very long way off, and even if it should
spread in their direction, it must be days before it could reach them.

Marie, the elder sister, was golden-haired and slim and tall: her skin
was golden, and gold-brown were her eyes. She was twenty-three. Alys had
her sister’s straightness and slimness; but her hair was dark, her skin
was very white, and her eyes were almost lilac-blue. Alys was nineteen.

Their father had been chaplain to the French colony in Salonika, and
immediately after his death in 1914 the two girls had been compelled to
rely upon their own efforts for the means of support. Refusing all
offers of help from their friends, they quickly acquired a working
knowledge of shorthand, and were now employed as typists in the great
store in Rue Venizelos from ten till six.

None guarded their virtue so carefully as they guarded theirs: no lives
were more secluded or better ordered. To those whom circumstances
compelled them to know, they were very gentle; but to strangers they
presented a reserved and haughty front that protected them from all
whom their beauty attracted and fascinated.

“Shall we go to bed?” asked Marie, late in the evening.

“Well,” said Alys, rather gravely, “to tell you the truth, I feel too
excited to sleep.”

She was standing at the window looking at a livid sky.

Marie rose from her work at the table and joined her sister.

“Look!” said Alys; “isn’t it wonderful? I think it’s going to be one of
the big fires of history. Some day children will learn about this in
school-books.”

Marie put her arm round her sister’s neck and patted her cheek.

“Yes, little princess, it _is_ wonderful. Look at that smoke, how it
rolls and writhes!--just as though it felt angry.”

Alys nodded and nestled closer to her sister.

“Are you afraid?” asked Marie.

“Oh, no: not afraid: it is too beautiful to make me afraid. Perhaps I am
what is called awe-struck.”

In the street below men and women were rushing to and fro distractedly,
carrying armfuls of their household goods--blankets, mattresses, pots
and pans, bird-cages, babies, carpets, cradles, chairs, etc. They dumped
them in the street, the womenfolk sitting on them whilst their men went
far afield seeking means of transport. Across the street, on the second
storey, a wine-merchant, at his wits’ end, was hurling casks of wine
onto the pavement below; each burst open with a crash, the wine rushing
out and making a thick stream in the gutter. No one stopped to laugh at
him.

“What cowards these natives are!” exclaimed Marie, with disgust; “they
always begin to squeal before they’re hurt.”

“I should like to go out and wander about and see what everybody is
doing,” said Alys.

“Better not,” counselled Marie. “There’ll be a lot of looting, I expect,
and half the natives will be drunk. Look how frightfully excited they
all are! But we must not get too excited or we shall never sleep. We
have to work to-morrow, you know.”

Still, they stood for a long time at the window, fascinated yet
contemptuous. The scene below grew wilder minute by minute. The vast
white furnace half a mile away lit up the street. Confusion was
everywhere. Occasionally, a woman’s shriek came up to them like a stupid
bit of theatricality. Now and again a band of young men brandishing
sticks marched down the street, singing and laughing.

At last, Marie drew her sister within the room.

“Thank God we are not as other people,” she said, smiling. “Let us go to
bed.”

They shared the same room. Alys was afraid, but she did not dare confess
her fear to her sister. Marie had always taught her that they were
better than other people. No doubt they were better. Nevertheless, she
trembled a little as she knelt down to pray. Her fear increased when she
discovered that she was mumbling words without any thought or hope
behind them.

Suddenly, she started and rose to her feet.

“What is that?” she asked, panting.

They heard the noise of heavy furniture being moved in the flat above.

“I was wondering how long they would dare to stay,” said Marie,
contemptuously. “This is a city of cowards.”

Alys slipped into bed, and Marie, who slept at the other side of the
room, came over and kissed her.

“Are you quite sure?” asked Alys.

“What do you mean, little dear?”

“Oh, nothing. But we really are safe, aren’t we?”

“Of course we are. Even if they don’t put the fire out, it can’t reach
us for days and days. Good-night, princess. Sleep well!”

She put her arm round her sister’s neck and, for a little minute,
lingered in love, blessing her. Then she rose, walked over to her own
bed and, having drawn the thick curtains over the windows, blew out the
solitary candle.

But Alys could not sleep. She only half-slept. Her tired little body
seemed to sleep, but her mind buried itself in fancies--the sort of
fancies that come to us in fever. This is what her imagination said to
her:

“_If_ the fire should come up the stair, walking, running. Then Marie
and I would have to jump from the window.... You can buy fire. They put
fire on the end of little match-stalks and sell him. They imprison him
in tiny bits of phosphorus.... Oh, yes: just rub a match between your
moist palms in the dark and your hands seem to be on fire. But it isn’t
fire, really--just a strange kind of light.... Imprison! But no one
likes being caged up. Fire doesn’t. Sometimes he leaps out of his
cage--like to-night--and just shows you.... If we were in the street, we
should be trampled on. Marie has not thought of these things.... Tiny
bits of phosphorus. Just matches....”

Most wildly did these fancies crowd upon her. Real sleep came at last.

Marie and Alys were the only two who slept that night in that quarter of
the town.

       *       *       *       *       *

Adolph’s face was thin and intellectual. He had beautiful hands, and his
wrists and ankles were as thin as an athlete’s. He sat in his gaudy
brothel, drinking.

“A real God-send,” he said to his partner, and as he spoke he tapped his
fingers on the little table holding their drinks. “A real slap-up
present from the Almighty. Delivered free of charge.”

“Oh yes, oh yes: God is good. But what are we to _do_?” asked his
partner, the man whom they called Tansy.

“Well, it’s simply a matter of choice. We’ve plenty to select from. All
our customers are sick of these Barcelona girls: they haven’t a bite
left in them. They start in Paris. Their bloom off, they go to London.
When London’s sucked them dry, they go to Marseilles and from
Marseilles to Port Said and from Port Said they come here and from here
they go to ... well, I suppose they go to Hell. Not a single one comes
from Barcelona. Now, we could do with half-a-dozen virgins.”

“Virgins?” asked Tansy, leering filthily. “And what strange fowl may
they be?”

“Well, the Cruchot girls are virgins. Marie and Alys. I’ve had them at
the top of my list for three years. They’re worth six thousand drachmæ
apiece. From Pedro’s report here, the fire should reach their house at a
quarter to one.”

“They’ll have skedaddled by now,” said Tansy, “it’s just on midnight.”

“They were at home an hour ago!” exclaimed Adolph.

“Well, what do you say to getting these two to-night and leaving the
second-rate stuff till to-morrow?”

Adolph nodded.

“We’d better take Mrs. Knumf along with us.”

He rang a bell. Presently a male servant entered.

“Tell Mrs. Knumf I want her. She must put on her outdoor things,” said
Adolph.

He dismissed the man with a motion of his flawless hand.

“Another drink,” suggested Tansy.

“I’ve had enough.”

“Share a bottle of champagne with me; this is a night of nights.
Besides, we want priming. Those Cruchot girls will require a hell of a
lot of managing. You see! If the elder one suspects anything, she’ll
fight like a demon.”

He opened a bottle of champagne and filled two glasses. They drank.
Tansy sat leering and perspiring. Soon the door opened and in walked a
woman of incredible and revolting respectability. She was dressed in
black.

“Ah! Mrs. Knumf,” said Adolph. “Sit down. Have some wine. Now, you know
the Cruchot girls, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes. At least, by sight,” said Mrs. Knumf, sipping her wine
genteelly, and simpering.

“Well, Tansy and I are after them. They’re still in their flat. In
half-an-hour or so the fire will be upon them. We must let them nearly
get caught, and then we’ll rescue them. It should be simple enough. We
will take the carriage. They will come back here with you. This is your
private house: it is the headquarters of the Sisters of Mercy of the
Orient: it is a branch of the Sacred Heart League: it is anything you
like to call it. You understand? Well, then, come along.”

Mrs. Knumf eagerly swallowed the remainder of her champagne and rose.
She composed her face and began to fiddle with a pair of black gloves.
She coughed behind a delicate hand.

They passed into the street and entered a carriage. Even here, near the
quay, they could hear the explosive noises that the hundred-acre furnace
made. A vast belt of smoke blotted out half the stars. Millions of
sparks were jerked into, and quenched by, the smoke, like water
frantically forced through a hose-pipe.

They had but seven or eight hundred yards to go; the streets were
crowded and they could proceed only at a snail’s pace. So intense was
the light and so black the shadows that the streets and buildings looked
grotesquely unreal. Almost everybody was shouting wildly. Many carried
open bottles: their eyes were wide and glittering. An old man sat in the
gutter laughing horribly and shouting indecencies to people as they
passed. Some of the smaller shops had been broken open, and looting
proceeded apace.

The fire strode about the city like a giant. It littered young pythons
of fire that glided subterraneously hither and thither and set a red
doom on old wooden warehouses and shops. It stretched quivering tongues
of flame across the streets and knit up one quarter of the town with
another. It triumphed scarletly in the night and, pushing violently
against lofty walls of brick and stone, sent them rattling to the
ground.

“It is a good night for everyone except the insurance companies,” said
Mrs. Knumf, complacently.

But when they stepped from the carriage on to the road, a gust of hot
air carried to them the brain-sickening smell of burnt flesh.

“A good many people will be missing to-morrow,” remarked Tansy.

“I suppose Hell’s a bit like this,” was all that Adolph found to say.

       *       *       *       *       *

Half-an-hour later the two girls were escorted by Mrs. Knumf to the
discreet, private entrance to the brothel. They had been rescued with
the utmost difficulty, and both of them were now shaken and a little
distraught.

“You would like to rest, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Knumf, leading the way to
a double-bedded room.

“You are very kind,” said Marie, looking at her a little distrustfully.
Then she turned to her sister who was seated on the edge of one of the
beds, trembling a little.

“Undress yourself, dear,” she said, “we will stay here until the
morning.”

“You will have some refreshment first?” asked Mrs. Knumf.

But Marie refused, and the woman, walking quickly to the door, vanished.
Almost immediately, through a second door on the opposite side of the
room, Adolph and Tansy entered.

“Well, ladies,” said Adolph, looking keenly at Marie, “it was a narrow
escape, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” answered Marie, impulsively; “we owe you our lives. We thank you
from the bottom of our hearts.”

She moved over towards Alys as though to protect her.

Adolph suddenly lurched forward.

“Well, you’re pretty well beat, I should think,” he said; “what about a
bottle of wine?”

“Oh, no! Indeed, no!” protested Marie, standing by Alys’ side, and
placing a hand upon her shoulder. “We only want to be left in peace.”

“Oh! but you must!” said Adolph. “Mustn’t they, Tansy?”

“Of course they musht,” said Tansy, eagerly. “Ring for wine. Champagne’s
the stuff: we’ve plenty of it.”

Marie suddenly made up her mind.

“My sister is ill--can’t you see she is? I beg you to leave us. You have
been very good to us: we are both grateful to you: do not spoil
everything by thrusting upon us further kindness that ... that is not to
be endured.”

“She’s right,” said Tansy, with drunken conviction, “absholutely right.
What did I say? ‘Leave ’em a bit': thash what _I_ said. Leave ’em to
simmer down. Now isn’t that just what _I_ said?”

“Very well,” said Adolph. “If you want anything, just ring. Mrs. Knumf
will attend to you.”

They left the room by the door through which they had entered, and Marie
heard the key turn in the lock.

She turned to Alys bravely.

“Get into bed, little one,” she said, “I will sleep with you.”

Two gilt candelabra, each holding half a dozen lighted candles,
illuminated the room. Marie examined the room with apprehensive eyes.
There were no windows: only bare walls faced her on every side. Near the
ceiling, on one side of the room, were three ventilators. She crept to
the door through which Mrs. Knumf had left the room and softly turned
the handle: it was locked.

Without a word and with a faint smile she approached Alys.

“Do not take your clothes off,” she said; “let us sleep as we are.”

Leaving the candles still burning, she lay down by her sister. Folded in
each other’s arms, they lay for a long time without sleeping. Vague
noises, whether in the house or not they could not tell, disturbed them
from time to time.

“The fire’s coming nearer,” whispered Alys at length. “I _know_ it is: I
_feel_ it is. Marie, let us go away from here: we shall be caught.”

She sat up in bed and looked wildly round the room.

“Lie down, little one,” said her sister, soothingly, as, rising on to
her knees, she placed her arm round Alys’ waist. “We can do nothing till
the morning. Lie down in my arms. You are quite safe.”

But Alys’ instinct was right. The fire was spreading with incredible
rapidity, and even now was within a few yards of the brothel. The vague
noises grew louder and more sinister.

Both the girls were in that condition which is neither sleep nor
wakefulness when one of the doors quietly opened and Adolph and Tansy
entered. The former, after rapidly glancing at both the beds, locked the
door, pocketed the key, went to the nearest candelabrum and extinguished
all the candles it contained.

Marie, holding her sister’s hand, slipped out of bed.

“Leave those other candles alone,” she commanded.

“We have come for our reward,” said Adolph, thickly.

Tansy seated himself on the table and made himself steady by placing his
hands on the table on either side of him; even with this support he
swayed a little. Alys had also risen from the bed; she now stood by her
sister’s side.

“What do you want?” asked Marie.

“Well, aren’t you going to rest?” asked Adolph. “Let me help you to
undress.”

But instead of approaching Marie, he lurched towards the younger sister
and placed a cruel, beautiful hand upon her arm. Alys winced as though
her head had been struck with a whip. For a moment, Marie hesitated:
then her fist shot out and caught Adolph between the eyes. He staggered
and fell, but on the instant rose to his feet.

“Come on, Tansy,” he called, mad with drink and lust; “it’s going to be
a fight--it’s _got_ to be one.”

Tansy, abandoning the support of the table, rushed blindly on to the two
girls, his bestial face alive with cruelty. Alys, sick and faint with
horror, fell to the floor.

“She’s mine!” shouted Adolph, dropping on his knees by her side and
bending over her.

“Let her alone! Let her alone!” shouted Marie, ceasing to struggle with
Tansy in whose ape-like arms she was imprisoned. “Take me--both of you.
Do what you like with me--only leave her untouched.”

But Adolph answered her with an insane, triumphant laugh.

“You belong to Tansy,” he said, and raising Alys from the floor, he
carried her to one of the beds.

A great accession of strength seemed to flow through Marie’s body and
limbs from her brain; her excitement and terror were inexhaustible
sources of energy. With a superhuman effort, she released herself from
Tansy’s grasp, and rushed like a flame across the room to the bed on
which Alys, only half-conscious, was now stretched. Throwing herself
upon Adolph from behind, she put her long fingers about his throat, and
it appeared to her as though her will to destroy pumped wave after wave
of power along her shoulders, down her arms, and into her fingers, and
made them stronger than steel. The man, half turning, struck her several
blows upon her face; but she felt nothing. Tansy, in attempting to
pursue her, had stumbled over a chair, crushing his head against a
corner of the table. He now lay on the floor, moaning.

It was while Marie’s fingers were still about Adolph’s throat that she
became conscious of dull explosive sounds immediately outside one of the
doors. At the same moment some one began to attempt to force an entrance
through the other door. A voice shouted excitedly, warningly. But Marie
still clung to her victim until all the strength left his limbs and he
fell to the floor. A key rolled out of one of his pockets. She tried to
pick it up, but a sudden faintness overcame her, and she sat on the edge
of the bed unable to move, her head light and empty, her legs trembling
with the utmost violence.

As one who dreams, she heard a great blow upon the door from beyond
which the strange explosive noises had been coming, and with unbelieving
eyes she saw the door fall inwards, torn from its hinges by a great beam
that had fallen against it. An inexhaustible cloud of black smoke rushed
into the room, almost suffocating her; with the smoke came a wave of
heat and the noisy crackle of burning wood. The excited warning voice at
the second door had ceased to shout.

All Marie’s senses were incredulous of her approaching doom. She gazed
on her surroundings with the detachment of an onlooker who was not
directly affected by those surroundings. She said to herself: “If Alys
and I don’t escape soon--now--we shall be burned alive.” But still she
did not move. She could not. She tried to lift her arm, but it remained
inert on the bed. She attempted to speak to her sister, but no sound
came from her lips....

The fire came roaring down the passage and entered the room. It was so
hot that Marie felt her skin was being scorched. The horror of dying in
flames seemed to her much less dreadful than the horror from which she
had just escaped. Yet it would now be a comparatively easy matter to get
away if only she could move. Her heart was beating violently, and her
breath came and went most stormily. With a supreme effort she gathered
all the forces of her mind together and concentrated them, willing
herself to move; in response to this effort, her body rose from the bed
and began to obey her wishes. Her hand picked up the key from the floor,
her arms folded themselves about her sister and half-dragged,
half-carried her to the second door. She fitted the key into the lock
and turned it. In a second the door was open, and she and her sister
were in the passage.

The door banged to after them, imprisoning the two half-conscious evil
men.

With many intervals for rest, Marie carried her sister to the end of the
passage and out into the open air. The brothel was almost surrounded by
fire: another five minutes, and she would have been too late. As she
emerged into the street and looked around her, she saw it was deserted.
No one in Salonika was interested in the burning of a brothel when great
hotels, huge warehouses, and fine palaces were being destroyed. And
degraded women are but poor loot when compared with jewels and drink.

As for Adolph and Tansy....



HOW IT GREW

To
T. Michael Pope



I suppose that, after all, I am at heart a good deal of a snob, for I
remember taking enormous pleasure in being seen in Captain Porritt’s
company as we sauntered by British Headquarters, and passed along by the
side of the quay until we reached the Café Roma. For Porritt was most
decidedly a notability in Salonika. He would have attracted attention
anywhere. He was dark and sudden, like a Spaniard. He had an air of
distinction, even of disdain, and though his face was peculiarly
animated, it never revealed anything. He looked what he was; an eager
young aristocrat, absorbed in and hugely entertained by his
surroundings. Every part of him had intuition: his hands _knew_.

Now, I must explain that Porritt had been in some little trouble. A
lady, I think; certainly not drink. She was somebody else’s wife, and
Somebody Else happened to be a millionaire merchant. So for three weeks
Salonika had been closed to Porritt, and to-day was the first day of the
ban’s lifting.

“I’d better go slow the first day, Old Thing,” he said; “we’ll go to the
Roma instead of the White Tower, and after lunch, if that little room’s
empty, you shall play Brahms to me--especially the Little Valse.”

We mounted the stone stairway that takes you so unexpectedly to the
restaurant. As soon as the manager saw Porritt he came fussing towards
us.

“Ah, monsieur!” he exclaimed, delightedly; “you once more! Are you
well? Yes?”

“Excessively. But how crowded you are!”

The manager gazed around at his cosmopolitan clients, and smiled
reassuringly.

“There, in the corner--a table for two. True, it is engaged for somebody
else, but you shall have it.”

He tangled fatly through the room, and, when at the table, turned about
and smiled.

We sat down, and our guide handed a wine list to Porritt.

“It is some weeks since you were in Salonika?” he suggested, rather than
asked.

“Yes; three. Very busy up-country. Very busy ... ve ... ry ... bu ... sy
...” Porritt’s eyes were among the champagnes.

“Ah: Indeed! Something important then?” (He had not heard of Somebody
Else’s wife.)

Porritt looked up and winked knowingly. “Rather! You wait and see.” He
lowered his voice, adding, confidentially: “There’s a move on.”

“Ah! The Big Push!”

His eyebrows shaped themselves into a question.

Porritt nodded gravely and impressively.

“The Big Push! The Big Push!” breathed the manager once more.

He murmured the words reverently and softly, and at once increased in
stature a couple of inches, thus falsifying the spirit, if not the
letter, of the Scriptural axiom. He was one of the Few who Knew. He was
a personality.

He tangoed away for a bottle of Veuve Cliquot. Porritt grinned.

“You watch!” he said. “It’ll spread as quickly as a scandal in a
cathedral city.”

And, really, the effect of this purely imaginary piece of news,
deposited in the bosom of the manager, was electrical. He passed from
table to table, and dropped a bomb on each. In five minutes the
restaurant was seething with excitement.

“The Great Push at last!... In France as well, no doubt.... Every
front.... Yes, the Great Push. I always said it would begin in May.”

At one table the manager lingered for some little time. He was talking
with some animation to three journalists, correspondents of French
newspapers. Two of them were busy writing in note-books. It appeared
that the manager had no lack of news to impart: he spread out his plump
hands, lifted his shoulders, and wrinkled his brows. And then he looked
furtively towards us, and whispered something behind his hand. The
journalists also looked, half rose, thought a second time, and sat down
again.

“Damned funny, isn’t it?” said Porritt.

“I’m afraid you’re rather in for it,” I remarked.

“Oh, I’ll soon dispose of _them_.”

Only one table went on smoothly and systematically with its eating.
Seated at it were two Fleet Street men, who had just come to Salonika to
conduct _The Balkan News_. They had listened to the manager, but had
remained unmoved. But, presently, one of them took a slip of paper from
his pocket, wrote a few words, and sent it across to us by a waiter.

Porritt unrolled the slip. On it was written: “Is there anything in it?”
He hesitated a moment, then wrote underneath: “Damfino.” “Which,” said
he to me, “being interpreted, means: ‘I’m damned if I know.’” And that
is all the English journalists got; as a matter of fact, it was all they
wanted, and they sat back in their chairs, and watched the rumour grow.

Extraordinary our human love of the sensational! Extraordinary our
inability to pass on a piece of news without adding to it! Extraordinary
the credulity we give to impossible stories we desire to be true!

“Let’s have our coffee and liqueurs down at Floca’s,” suggested Porritt.
“It’ll be rather jolly to see to what fantastic shapes my Yarn has grown
down there.”

Floca’s, of course, is just underneath the Roma, but though only a floor
and a ceiling divide them, they are as different in mental atmosphere as
the gilt-mirrored lounge of the Café Royal, and the dining-room at
Morley’s Hotel.

The word “seethes” is banal; nevertheless, Floca’s seethed. For the Yarn
had grown. It now had many twisted forms, each fashioned according to
the desires and fears of the individual gossiper. Porritt, the only
begetter of this disturbance, leaned back with a gratified smile on his
lips.

“One must amuse oneself,” said he.

“Ah! Porritt! Porritt! Little do you know the mischief you have done! At
this moment the news is on its way to Athens, thence to London, Berlin,
Vienna--everywhere. At about seven o’clock this evening, just when the
night editors are beginning to think of dinner, it will reach Fleet
Street, perhaps by way of Zurich or Amsterdam. Even now, as I speak, the
world is beginning to wake up to this great new event. Thousands of
pounds will be spent on cables. Reputations will be lost. Perhaps
Roumania will be induced to come in at last. Greece will stir uneasily,
the Kaiser will wire to Hindenburg, the Stock Exchange....”

“Would it were all true!” interrupted Porritt. “Do you know, Cumberland,
I have never felt so important in all my life? Look over there!”

He pointed to a neighbouring table. At it were seated two men, both of
whom I knew well by sight. One a fat, hairy Greek Jew with a pendulous
jaw, and great bags under his eyes, was a fabulously wealthy financier;
the other his confidential clerk. They had been taken unawares by the
news, and forgot that a dozen eyes were upon them. The financier was
white and trembling, and time after time he tried to rise from his
chair, only to sink back repeatedly in a condition of distressing
exhaustion. Fear, a devastating fear, dwelt in his eyes.

“What is he afraid of?” I whispered to Porritt.

“Only his clerk knows. But evidently he thinks he is ruined.”

“Tell him!” I urged; “tell him it’s not true--that it’s only your
invention.”

“Why should I? If people will speculate in human lives, let them take
the consequences.... And now,” added he, “I must go to the canteen to
get those six cases of whiskey. I’ve a limber waiting for me just off
Piccadilly Circus.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It reached Fleet Street precisely at nine.

“I think we might have a leader on it--in any case, a short one,” said
Hartley, Editor of the _Trumpet_, that powerful organ of democracy, to
the night editor. “Tell Bisham to come along.”

Like a lizard, Bisham darted in, an unlit stump of a cigar between his
thin, intelligent lips.

“Well, Bish, the Big Push is on at last. All fronts. Just through on the
wire. Waiting for censor’s permish. No details. Let’s have a couple of
sticks, in case. The news about Salonika; the wire itself--it comes from
Zurich--will go in under any circs. And, you, Beale,” he added, turning
to the night news editor, “wire Amsterdam, and do the necessary with
Paris. Now, trot along both of you. I’m busy.”



KATYA’S WOOING

To
Jack Kahane



It was in May, 1912, that Katya Kontorompa met cosmopolitan Guy Fallon,
and decided to make him fall in love with her. She was staying at the
Olympos Hotel, in Salonika, with her mother, and Fallon had a suite of
rooms on the ground floor. He was tall, dark, and vivid; moreover, he
was young; best of all, he was fabulously wealthy.

“A week next Thursday,” said Katya one afternoon to her mother, as they
sat on the shaded balcony on the first floor, “Guy Fallon will propose
to me. It will take place in the evening in one of those boats.”

She nodded towards a flotilla of little rowing-boats that stirred lazily
to the rhythm of the lazy waves.

“Yes?” inquired her mother, who sat in a low chair looking benevolently
at the world that God had made specially for her.

“And though I shall be a little timid at first,” continued Katya, “I
shall say yes as soon as he has kissed me passionately on the mouth. But
not until. I think he would kiss rather well, don’t you?”

“I think he would be thorough, dear.... But we musn’t talk like this. I
never used even to _think_ like it till you came home from Brussels.”

“Would you like Guy for a son-in-law, mamma?”

As a matter of fact, Mrs. Kontorompa was fascinated by Fallon almost as
much as her daughter was, and it was with a wholly sensuous feeling that
she closed her lids and said:

“Yes, dear, I should--very much.”

“But the kind of kisses he would bestow upon you, mamma, would be very
different from those I should get,” said Katya, mischievously.

But though Fallon saw a good deal of the two ladies during the next few
days, there was something in his manner that made Mrs. Kontorompa
suspect he had no intention of marrying her daughter. He was in love
with her--yes; but it was not quite the kind of love that leads to
marriage. Rather was it the kind of hot, uneasy passion that persecutes
a man until he has gained his desire, when it shrinks and dies like an
orchid in a night of frost. But Katya, of course, was extraordinarily
clever: ignobly so. She was directing the affair with elaborate
carefulness, confident that in the end she would trap this bright tiger
of a man in her net of conspiracies.

Though living in the same hotel, Fallon wrote to her twice every day.
Sitting up in bed in his yellow pyjamas each night, he wrote just before
he slept, and the note was delivered by his valet to Katya’s maid at
eight o’clock every morning. And just before dinner in the evening he
also wrote, and this letter he himself handed to Katya as they said good
night. Fallon knew how to write. He had a habit of intoxicating himself
with words, and though each letter said: “I love you! I want you!” he
rescued himself from monotony and her from boredom, by saying the same
thing in a hundred different ways. But he was never tender, and Mrs.
Kontorompa, who eagerly read the letters Katya passed on to her, was
driven on one occasion to remark:

“It is not marriage-love. Your father has never loved me like that!”

“Poor mamma!” murmured Katya; “poor mamma! But don’t you wish he had?”

Fallon was with the Kontorompas almost every hour of every day. In the
afternoons, when Mrs. Kontorompa slept, the two lovers played pianoforte
duets in the big, deserted lounge. Fallon was a masterful pianist, and
he played in a manner that suggested intense hunger of the soul. In
these hours he had no courtesy, and when she bungled a passage he would
scowl at her and call her a little fool. And at this she would laugh and
play carelessly in order to taste his anger once again....

“To-day is Thursday,” announced Katya, one morning, as she and her
mother breakfasted alone in their room.

“So it is,” agreed her mother, without conviction.

“But I mean it’s _the_ Thursday. This evening Guy will ask me to marry
him. After dinner he and I will walk to the White Tower. There we shall
get a boat. Guy will row. There will be a moon.”

She spoke as though she had arranged for the moon to be there.

“Do take care of yourself, dear. Mr. Fallon is so dark and so ... so
impulsive. You know what I mean.”

“Yes, I know what you mean, mamma; but those little rowing-boats are
quite safe in more senses than one.”

And because she was so anxious for the evening to come, Katya found the
bright hours of the day tepid and slow. She was very quiet and subdued
in the afternoon, when Fallon found her in the empty lounge.

“Come and play!” he commanded.

“I feel languid and lazy, like a cat in the sun,” she said; “besides,
I’m reading.”

“Very well--we’ll play the _Petite Suite_ of Debussy’s and some other
tame stuff. Let’s sentimentalize together.”

“Oh, but you’d find out too much about me. We should get too close to
each other in that soft, melting music.”

“Is it possible for us to get too close to each other?” he asked, with a
laugh that seemed to be half a sneer.

She rose, and together they walked to the piano.

Only those who have played in concerted music know how easy it is for
two souls to mingle in sound. They enjoy an intimacy which no passionate
avowals, no tender pleadings, and, indeed, no physical contact can
provide. Debussy is never entirely innocent: even his gold-fishes swim
wantonly in their pool: and the very tender miniatures of the _Petite
Suite_ are decadent with faint exhalations of patchouli.

Fallon detested the casual promiscuities of secret lovers--the pressure
of hands, the stolen kisses, the entire vocabulary of illicitness. He
had the fastidiousness of the gourmet, and as yet his body had tasted
nothing of Katya’s delights, save the sharp thrill that eyes can
communicate, and the peculiar, ghostly, but sensuous intimacy supplied
by music.

       *       *       *       *       *

Katya’s moon was in its appointed place as the two lovers silently
descended the quay at the White Tower and embarked in their little boat.
Guy rowed out into the bay. There was no breathing in the air, no ripple
on the sea. The stars made magic in the sky, and conspired with the moon
to create a feeling of far-off voluptuousness.

Fallon rowed lazily until they were a mile or so from the town, which
was visible as a vast congeries of lights--chains of lights, terraces of
lights, huge constellations poised in the air, lonely points of flame
burning in solitary places.

“Like a huge window full of jewels,” said Katya.

The tens of thousands of lights were reflected in the sea as clearly as
a face is reflected in a mirror.

“Which is the more real?” asked Fallon; “the city’s illumination or the
sea’s version of it?”

“The water is quite warm,” said Katya, laying a white hand on the
surface of the indigo sea.

“Yes,” said Fallon. “You could, if you wished, more easily plunge your
hand into my heart than into that water.”

“I know,” she said; “perhaps some day I will.”

“Perhaps some day it will be too late. I cannot go on loving you like
this--desperately--for ever. Love can be broken by its own strength.”

“You must not threaten me,” she said. “Your attraction for me is your
strength: strong people do not threaten. They do not even warn.”

“Then you do love me?”

“Of course. That is, if you call it love.”

“If I lean forward I can kiss your ankle.”

She laughed.

“Humour must be preserved even if propriety isn’t,” she said;
“nevertheless, you may kiss it.”

She felt the long warmth of his lips through her puce-coloured silk
stockings. A hot wind suddenly came from the south, stirring the sea to
life.

“And now,” she said, “you’d better row back.”

“We were fools to come here,” he said.

“Yes?... Why? Tell me.”

But he sat moodily for a minute without speaking. Then he lit a
cigarette, and by the light of his match Katya saw the passion in his
eyes.

“You’re a bit of a tiger,” she said.

“And you’re much of an iceberg,” he retorted.

“Passionless, cold, serene,” she quoted. “I wonder if I am. I’ve never
yet had the chance of finding out.”

But he made no reply. His silence, his lack of directness, the lazy
contemptuous manner in which he smoked his cigarette, whipped her to
anger.

“Let’s go back,” she said, abruptly.

“No,” he replied, with grimness. “I’ve got you here.”

“Very well,” she said; “then give me a cigarette.”

He threw her a case and a box of matches.

Then, suddenly, words came from him in a torrent.

“You confess you love me. Well, if you do--passion’s what I want.
Affection’s nothing to me. You’ve ‘never yet had a chance of finding
out.’ Do you expect me to believe that? You were made to tempt men ...
and to satisfy them. Listen, Katya: I love every bit of you. You’re not
cold. You could kiss, I know. Let me row you back.”

His cigarette gave a little hiss as it hit the water. He threw his arms
forward, desperately.

“Yes, let me row you back,” he repeated.

“I love you,” she answered, “but I can never be your mistress. I’m not
angry with you....”

“Do you think I should care if you were?” he interrupted, violently. “Do
you think I care a damn for your anger?--or your love? You would like to
be cruel to me: _I_ know: I know your sort. But I can wash you from my
mind as easily as the sea has put out my cigarette.”

“Oh, no!” she said; “you can’t do that. You know you can’t. Something
of me will be with you always.”

He took the oars and began to row. The little indigo waves passed by
them; the feathered oars slid along their crests. At each pull the boat
leapt; something of his strength was imparted to her body; she quivered
in response.

At the quay of the White Tower he was rough and insolent.

“Get out, quick!” he commanded; “let’s finish this ridiculous business
as speedily as possible.”

She turned upon him with an amused smile.

“You have the most dreadful manners of any man I have ever met,” she
said, with a little laugh. “When you are in a temper, you are about
twelve years old.”

He called a _gharry_, waited until she had stepped into it, and then
strode away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Kontorompa was sitting up in bed, reading, when Katya opened her
mother’s bedroom door. She looked at her daughter with a contented
smile.

“Nothing happened,” announced Katya. “He does not want to marry me.”

“My poor child! Never mind: there were weeks and weeks when I used to
think the same about your father. Men never know their own minds.”

“But Fallon shall know his,” said Katya; “I’m as clever as any man I’ve
come across yet.”

“Do be careful, dear. You were careful to-night?”

“Very. He only kissed my ankle.”

“_Your ankle!_” exclaimed her mother, in amazement; “whatever for? Why
should he want to kiss your ankle?”

“Well,” said Katya, laughing, “I’ve got rather a nice ankle, you know.”

Mrs. Kontorompa, who had no ankles at all, but merely calves terminating
in feet, sighed anxiously.

“Your father never kissed _my_ ankles,” she said, disapprovingly.

“Ask him to!” urged Katya, mischievously; “it’s a delightful feeling.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A week later Fallon, dressed in white duck, knocked early one morning at
Mrs. Kontorompa’s drawing-room door. Katya and Katya’s mother were to go
with him to Langaza to picnic. But at the very last moment Mrs.
Kontorompa, as had been arranged between her daughter and herself, felt
indisposed.

“You will come by yourself,” said Fallon.

“Of course,” answered Katya.

The chauffeur was discreet and unobservant: he was paid a very large
salary for not seeing things.

Their car was fitted with a lace awning, but the air was so hot and dry,
that before they were well over the deserted Lembet plain they were
inordinately thirsty. So Fallon stopped the car and opened a half-bottle
of champagne.

“I didn’t bring champagne just because it’s expensive,” he explained,
“but because I know you like it. Look!--the ice is half melted already.”

“It will be cooler by the lake,” said Katya; “there may even be a little
breeze. I never drink champagne on a hot day,” she added, “without
longing to have a bath in it. It would tingle so deliciously, like
electricity.”

“Sensualist! I’ve often noticed you love the sensations you’ve never
experienced.”

“The worst of it is, there are so few of them left.”

But Fallon was not interested, and he threw the empty bottle on the
roadside with a gesture of boredom.

“Drive on!” he ordered the chauffeur.

When a mile from Langaza Lake, the car was drawn up by the side of the
deserted road, and their chauffeur spread out their lunch under the
shade of a little grove of poplars.

In silence they ate and drank. The sun-baked plain sent waves of visible
heat into the sky. No birds sang. The bronze sound of a sheep-bell came
from afar.

“Life passes,” said Katya, at length, “and we grow older.”

“True,” answered he, mockingly. “It is only the grass that never
withers. It was here ten thousand years ago, and it is here to-day.”

“But you and I!--how quickly age will come to us!” she said.

“How foolish, then, to waste our youth!” he urged. “Sometimes I feel
angry at those days which slip by empty of ecstasy. Waste! It’s all
waste! Waste of days, of months, of years! Just because we refuse to
take what life offers us. We do not live for ever, and the things that
taste sweet to-day will in a few years be but bitterness and ashes.”

He allowed his wine-glass to slip from his lax fingers on to the grass.

“Let us walk,” he said; “I’m restless.”

So they rose and walked slowly towards the lake.

“What is that parcel you are carrying?” he asked, when they were near
the lake’s border.

“Oh, I thought perhaps I’d do some sketching when we got to the lake. We
can sit down, and you may smoke while I work. No, thanks: I can easily
carry it myself.”

They walked on in silence. Then:

“You were talking about waste,” she said.

“Was I? Yes. But it’s a dreary subject. I was lecturing you, really, you
know; for you’re wasting my life as well as your own. You’re destroying
these days. It’s just a week since you told me you loved me.”

“Yes, but I said ‘if you call it love.’ To you love is one thing; to me,
another.”

“Why? What do you imagine _is_ my idea of love?”

“Just appetite--the satisfaction of an appetite.”

“And your idea?”

“Service.”

He laughed on a high note of contempt.

“You deceive yourself,” he said. “Do you think I don’t know you? Do you
think I live with my eyes shut? If you were to confess that your idea of
love is a means of obtaining security against life, I’d believe you. In
other words--you like me in my brutal moods, don’t you?--if I asked you
to marry me, you would serve me for what I would give you in return. Is
that what you mean by service?”

“You believe, then, I would accept your invitation if you asked me to
marry you?”

“Most assuredly. Let’s finish this subtle, month-old fight of ours, and
speak in plain words.”

“But we understand each other so well without plain words!” she
protested.

“Do we? I wonder. Tell me, then: why don’t I ask you to marry me?”

“Because you don’t love me. Your body merely aches for mine. You suffer,
I know.”

“Yes, I do,” he acknowledged; “but I can endure pain. Most men can’t:
that is why they are willing to incur the discomfort and long penance of
marriage--anything rather than continue to suffer.”

“Then why don’t you go away? Why don’t you leave me altogether?”

But he did not answer.

“Is it,” she asked, “because you still hope to win me without marriage?”

He turned upon her savagely.

“Temptress and taunter!” he exclaimed. “I know your sort. You love to
feel your hideous power. You suck delight from my misery.”

He drew nearer to her and seized one of her wrists.

“I love you,” he whispered; “isn’t that enough?”

They were in a little pathway among the rushes by the lake’s side.
Suddenly, she wrested herself away from him and, raising her right arm,
threw the parcel she carried into the lake. It floated on the surface,
and the gentle south wind moved it slowly across the water in the
direction of Langaza village, a couple of miles away.

She looked at him with a mocking smile.

“Let us go back,” she said, “for this is merely the waste of another
day.”

“Why have you thrown your sketching things away?” he asked, stupidly.

“I haven’t. The things I have thrown away were once yours. Then they
became mine. They will belong to the person who finds them.”

The words came hysterically, and she trembled a little.

“What are they?” he asked.

“Your letters to me. I have finished with you. This is the end.”

He began to laugh, but his laughter quickly died in his throat.

“You fool!” he exclaimed; “you spiteful little devil! My name is on each
of those letters.”

He quivered with anger, and raised his fist as though to strike.

“I know,” she said. “That is one of the reasons why I threw them away.
It is time your folly was known to others besides me.”

She looked upon him with malice, delighting in his anger. Then she
laughed softly, taunting him.

“Can’t you swim?” she asked. “See, it isn’t very far off.”

But he strode away in the direction of the motor-car. She called after
him, gently, lovingly.

“Guy! Guy!”

He stopped and turned, his face and attitude contemptuous. Running up to
him, she threw her arms about his neck and, half-sobbing, half-laughing,
stammered:

“Guy! Dear Guy! I was only fooling you. They were not your letters--not
one of them. Your dearest letters I carry in my breast, next to my
heart.”

He pressed his face hard against her neck.

“You little devil, you! Why do we torture each other like this?”

She clung to him desperately.

“Marry me! Marry me!” she implored.

“Yes, I will: I’m damned if I won’t. But, I warn you--look out! We shall
both have a hell of a time.”

“But there’ll be a month or two of heaven first,” she said, and, opening
his shirt at the neck, she kissed him low down on his breast.



THE STORM

To
Mary Harrison



Xavier Petrovski was English in spite of his name, appearance, and his
temperament.

“As for his appearance,” said Judith Lesueur to her sister, Marian,
“well, it’s too ravishing for words. Eyes that melt, my dear--melt with
their own fire.”

Marian laughed.

“I never like your little gods, your little tin gods; your little gods
of flesh and blood. And I particularly hate the melting variety. Just
like the butter you get in the Café Roma in August.”

His temperament was melancholy, for he was cursed with a hot, uneasy
ambition that goaded him on to work till his body grew tired, his brain
stale, and his spirit dejected. He believed himself to be a musical
composer.

“I have genius: I _know_ I have genius,” he said, over and over again in
spring nights when he lay in his lodging overlooking the sea.

And then he would sleep and dream, his brain ravished by sumptuous
harmonies, his very flesh soothed by sound.

For a living he played the violin in the Orient Café, for he was a
member of the Ostrovsky Quartet. From three o’clock in the afternoon
till midnight he played, whilst the loose men and women of Salonika
danced and drank and ate. In the mornings he composed music and counted
up the money he had saved. For Xavier was nothing if not practical. He
was not going to miss the reward of his genius by foolish conduct or
faulty management of his affairs. Already he had saved £800. Not a penny
was spent that could by any contriving be added to his hoard. In a
little while he would take his money to London, and then! Oh, then he
would show them! The finest orchestra in the world should play his music
and the critics should praise it; it should be printed and sold; his
name should be on the lips of every man. Fame: money: the companionship
of the great: the smiles of women: the intoxication of life lived to the
full. All should be his. In a little while. He was sure of it.

At least, sometimes he was sure. In his happy moments, his moods of
exaltation. But there were black moods.

“Is it possible that I have written these inanities?” he would sometimes
ask himself. “I am a fool, sick with vanity, eaten up with egomania.”

In one of these unendurable moods he met Judith Lesueur, the most
beautiful and most cultured demirep in all Salonika.

“Oh, Miss Lesueur,” he exclaimed, “do help me.”

“What is it?” she asked, smiling. “Has someone been horrid to you?” (She
always treated him as though he were a child.)

“No: but I’m terribly depressed: my music won’t come right. I looked at
my String Serenade this morning, and it is inconceivable that I should
have written such ridiculous stuff. And when I was writing it I thought
it was so splendid.”

“It probably _is_ splendid,” she said, sympathetically; “everyone has
moods. Come to the Café and drink with me.”

“Oh, no!” he protested. “This rotten feeling--I must walk it off. Drink
would only make me worse.”

But, instead of going a long tramp as he had intended, he returned to
his lodgings, and sat brooding at his open window. His thoughts turned
to his dead father: he also had been a composer of music, and he had
been one of life’s failures. He had worked hard and very patiently, but
no one had ever played anything he had written.

Xavier rose from his chair and walked across the room to a big chest
full of MSS., all in his father’s neat writing. He turned over page
after page--symphonies, overtures, songs, string quartets. How like his
father this music was!--mystical, tender, exquisite. “Like the poems of
Rossetti,” Xavier murmured to himself. Soon he became so absorbed in his
father’s work, that he nearly lost consciousness of himself. The music
he was reading murmured and sang in his ears. His father’s very spirit
seemed to suspire from the pages. Almost could his voice be heard. It
was as though the soul of the dead man was brooding over his living
son....

Some of the music had been written only ten years ago: it was very much
in advance of its period, and perhaps it was for this reason that both
publishers and conductors had disdained it. Xavier’s father had lived in
London where, it is true, good music cannot for long go unrecognized;
but he had been proud and almost vainly sensitive, and the rejection of
a composition used to throw him into a condition of despair so great,
that months would pass before he could persuade himself to give the work
another chance. His sensitive pride had been his ruin....

Xavier, wrapped up in his own work, had not for some years examined his
father’s music, and had never divined its true quality; but now he
recognized its extraordinary distinction, its peculiar originality, its
brooding power and barbed eloquence. Oblivious of time, he read on until
his landlady entered with his lunch.

“We are going to have a thunderstorm,” she said, looking at the copper
sky.

“Very likely,” he said, his eyes still on the music.

And while he ate his frugal meal, he continued reading his father’s
music; he absorbed it until it was time to go to the Orient Café. As he
walked slowly thither, he felt that during the last few hours his
personality had undergone a strange metamorphosis. He was not himself:
something had been added to him: some luxury, a kind of mental
wantonness--had entered his spirit unawares. His mind was larger, his
imagination more rapid and higher in its flights.

There was something ghostly in this, something, perhaps, even
threatening. But no doubt the minatory feeling came from the sulphur sky
that hung so low, a sky heavy with electricity and sulky with spleen....

The dances he and his comrades played that afternoon and evening meant
less than nothing to him, for he did not even hear them. One performs
mechanically the acts one performs frequently. The music that was in the
air about him was the music he had read that morning.

At midnight, the day’s work over, he left the Café and sought his
lodging. There were no stars. Thunder had begun to mutter, but as yet no
rain had fallen. Faint fires trembled in the sky. Xavier felt the
excitement of something important about to happen. His brain teemed with
ideas. As soon as he got home, he would begin to compose.

“‘The Storm!’” he said, suddenly, speaking aloud. “The storm that never
breaks--that’s an idea, and a damned good one, too. The storm that is
always threatening and never begins. Something brooding, something
gathering itself together, something couching, something licking its
chops. And nothing ever happening.”

He knitted his brows in deep thought, and by the time he had reached his
room, musical ideas for his composition were already filling his mind.

He sat down and wrote. Muted horns cried mysteriously on the paper
before him in discords that were continually on the point of being, but
never were, resolved.... At the end of an hour he read what he had
written; from the very first bar it was good. It was with difficulty
that he kept his excitement under control. He worked without effort,
without thought, but with deep and disturbed feeling. His pen moved
mechanically, and he could but wonder at its strange activity.

Just before dawn, he lay down and fell asleep. At the end of the third
hour of his slumber, he awoke suddenly, all his senses fresh and alert.
The sun was in his room. Anxiously he bounded out of bed, and sat down
at his little table near the window, scanning his MS. with eager eyes.
The muted horns made magic music. Yes--it was fine! Every note of it was
fine! How mysteriously yet significantly the strings stirred! How
broodingly the wood-wind kept suggesting the principal theme that was
never fully stated!

It was with a trembling fear that he took his pen in hand. Had his
inspiration failed? Had that mood gone? No: without effort he began at
the point at which he had left off. Though it was happy day outside, the
storm was still brewing on his paper. Little flickers of flame danced on
his sky’s edge: a black turbulence was at his zenith....

Three days later, his Symphonic Poem was finished, and he sought out
Judith Lesueur that she might share his joy.

“Oh, Miss Lesueur,” he said, bursting into her flat, “do sympathize with
me!”

“What is it?” she asked. “Has someone been horrid to you?”

“No: I’m so happy I can’t remain alone. I’ve written a wonderful work: I
can’t believe it is I who have written it. And really--don’t laugh at
me!--it just seemed to me all the time that somebody else was writing it
for me.”

“Oh, I’m _so_ glad. If you weren’t so terribly virtuous, I would kiss
you.”

Involuntarily, he moved a pace or two away from her. She held out her
hand.

“Don’t be afraid, dear friend!” She smiled on him. “If you are happy, I
am also. And now, I suppose, you’ll be going to London and I shall see
you no more. Poor Judith!”

“Yes,” he answered, “I shall be going soon. It describes a storm--the
gathering of a storm: clouds coming out of the vacant blue and massing
together: yellow, treacherous vapours emerging from God knows where:
enmity in the air. But the storm never breaks. All the thick, heavy
passions of nature mingle until they become clogged. And then the music
stops, choked by its own congestion.”

Judith did not understand him: he was just a little mad, she thought.

“I do hope it will be a success,” she said. “I’m sure it will. But I
wish I was coming to London with you to hear it.”

He glanced at her rather shyly.

“Do you?” he asked. “Do you, really?”

“Why, of course I do. I want to _see_ your success: I want to be with
you in the midst of it.”

“Perhaps, some day ...” he said, vaguely, blushing a little. “Well,
good-bye,” he added, “I must be off to the Café now.”

       *       *       *       *       *

London was much kinder than Xavier Petrovski had anticipated, for he
had not reflected that all cities, all people, are kind to men who have
money to spend. He came with letters of introduction, and was soon on
friendly terms with many musicians, critics, and people of social
influence. A German firm of publishers had already accepted a volume of
his songs, and the wealthy amateur, Countess Idionowsky, had arranged
for an evening of his music to be given at her house in Portman Square.
His timid manner, his air of distinction, and the “melting” eyes, which
Judith had tried to describe to her sister, made him very popular with
women, and he received more invitations than he could accept.

More satisfactory than anything else, he had been able to secure Queen’s
Hall for an evening in the first week in June, and Marcel Xystobam was
to conduct for him, and the great soprano, Alice Gardner, was to sing a
group of his songs and a scene from his opera _Dido_.

On this concert, and in advertising it, he had spent a large portion of
his hoard. All his hopes for the future were centered on this event. If
it failed, his life would be broken, his ambition killed. But the
thought of failure rarely entered his mind, so full were his days of
happiness, so continuous was the flow of praise he received from his new
friends.

In the afternoon of the day before his orchestral concert, a stranger
called to see Xavier at his hotel. He was a tall ascetic-looking man,
fashionably dressed, courteous, even a little deferential.

“My name is Shaw--Geoffrey Shaw,” he said, “and I have called to see you
because I knew your father well: indeed, he was a dear friend of mine.”

Xavier, who had been writing at a desk when the stranger entered, rose
excitedly to his feet.

“You knew my father?” he asked.

“Yes. I was with him when he died. In those days I was not so ... so
well-circumstanced as I am now, or perhaps he would not have died when
he did. I was one of those who had faith in him--in his genius.”

“Tell me about him. You know, I was only fifteen when he died, and
during the last two years of his life I never saw him at all.”

So the stranger told Xavier of his father’s last years--of his patient
courage, his extraordinary capacity for work, his sensitiveness.

“He really had very great powers,” Shaw continued, “but the weakness in
him was that he had not sufficient faith in himself. His faith came and
went. A single hostile word was sufficient to make him suspect his own
genius.”

He stayed for half-an-hour and then rose to go.

“I am going to your concert to-morrow, of course,” he said; “perhaps you
will come and sup at my flat when it is over. My place is in Oxford
Street, less than five minutes’ walk from Queen’s Hall.”

“I shall be delighted.”

       *       *       *       *       *

There are few experiences so salutary, and yet at the same time so
galling, as that undergone by an inexperienced composer when he listens
to the first performance of his orchestral works. His music may look
extraordinarily lucid on paper, but in actual performance all kinds of
elaborately calculated effects fail to “come off”: they are destroyed by
lack of balance between the different sections of the orchestra. The
ideas are there, but they are not heard.

At the long rehearsal of his music, Xavier suffered deeply. It seemed to
him that his compositions were like exquisite paintings at which
handfuls of mud had been thrown: the tender sound would suddenly become
meaningless noise: muddy patches here and there stopped and choked the
logical continuity of his work.

When he first noticed this, his instinct was to throw the blame on his
conductor, Marcel Xystobam, but two or three minutes’ reflection
disclosed to him that the fault was in the writing itself, and not in
the manner of its interpretation. Only one work, “The Storm,” came out
in sound precisely as he had heard it in his inner ear; his other
compositions were palpably the work of an untried, though gifted,
amateur.

       *       *       *       *       *

Xavier Petrovski sat writhing at his own music.

The large audience was obviously bored; even Alice Gardner’s appearance
did not lift them out of their apathy. During the interval many left the
hall. The applause bestowed on each composition could only just be
heard. All the critics were already congregated round the refreshment
bar. Nothing but a miracle could prevent the concert from being the most
conspicuous failure of the season.

There was nothing from which Xavier could derive consolation. The fault
was his own. His music was the music of a man who had not learned the
technique of his art; the sounds that reached him from the orchestra
were not the sounds that had come to him in the silence of his room in
Salonika; through lack of skill--through want of experience--he had
failed to record what he had heard.

After what to the composer seemed hours of misery, the last work was
reached. He knew well that if the audience were in a mood to listen,
“The Storm” could not fail of its effect. In rehearsal, it had been
peculiarly impressive. Not a single note was miscalculated: it was the
work of a mature mind: it had all the attributes of genius.

And to-night, the very first bars gripped the tired and disappointed
listeners. They forgot their disappointment in listening to this strange
disturbing sound. Brooding yet passionate, the music filled the hall: it
flickered like flame; it rolled, like heavy waters; it menaced, like
distant, just-heard thunder. It made its listeners believe that
something terrible was about to happen. And when all the black beauty of
it had passed away without its threatened terrible culmination, the
listeners felt an exquisite relief that expressed itself in thunderous
applause.

Not until the conductor had signified with an expressive gesture that
the composer was not present and could not therefore bow his
acknowledgments from the platform, did the audience begin to
disperse....

At the entrance of the hall Xavier Petrovski found his new friend,
Geoffrey Shaw, waiting for him. The meeting of the two men was
constrained; it seemed almost as though they were enemies compelled to
meet on a matter of business. They began to walk towards Oxford Street.

“I wish to God I had stayed in Salonika,” said Petrovski, at length,
“for it’s all been waste.”

His companion tried to comfort him.

“You have not yet had the experience that every composer needs before he
can become successful--the kind of experience that you can’t get out
there in Greece. You must stay in London--live here. You would learn
quickly all that is required.”

“But my ‘Storm’ succeeded, didn’t it?”

For a moment Shaw made no reply. Then:

“Yes,” he said; “that work was a great success.”

“But they tell me the critics did not stop to hear it. They all left the
hall long before the concert was finished. I do not blame them, but it’s
a pity they did not hear my best work.... I feel like a beginner, Mr.
Shaw--I have everything yet to learn. And for some years I have been
flattering myself that I was a master of my art.”

“Don’t be too despondent, my dear fellow. You’ve got the stuff in you
all right: it only wants bringing out and putting into proper shape.”

“Yes; but the curious thing is that my work, ‘The Storm,’ is absolutely
free from all faults of inexperience. It might almost have been written
by another man.”

They had now reached Shaw’s flat. His host unlocked the door and led him
to his dining-room where supper was laid.

Shaw’s sympathetic kindness and, no doubt, the wine also soon put
Petrovski into a more hopeful frame of mind. When they had finished
supper, Shaw invited his guest into his library. The room contained
nothing but books, a desk, and a couple of easy chairs.

“I have something here I want to show you,” he said, very gravely. “It
is a MS. of your father’s--he gave it to me a few weeks before his
death. I happen to know it is the only copy in existence; and I was
present when he destroyed the preliminary sketch on which this
composition is founded.”

Taking a thin volume from a cabinet, he opened it at the first page and
placed it before his guest.

At the very first glance Petrovski uttered an exclamation of surprise.
Then, bending over it, he examined it hurriedly and with the utmost
agitation. His hands trembled so violently that he could scarcely turn
over the pages.

“Good God!” he exclaimed at length; “it’s ‘The Storm'--note for note--my
own work!”

He transferred his gaze from the MS. to his host.

“What does it mean?” he asked; “in God’s name, what does it mean?”



THE MAN WHO GAVE HIS SOUL

To
Walter H. Mudie



Dmitri passed his life in doing good. In that lay all his happiness. In
the whole of Salonika there was no man or woman so vile, so incorrigibly
steeped in iniquity, as to fail to stir his compassion. All men were his
brothers: all men, he sometimes thought, were himself.

He preached in the streets and in the markets, and this is the gospel
the young man brought to his hearers.

“All forms of consciousness are God. If the trees are conscious, then
they are part of God. If lions are conscious, they also are God. The
more alive a man is--the more conscious he is of himself and his
environment--the more of God’s spirit does he possess. For God is a
vast, infinite, potential Intelligence that is conscious of itself only
through us--and, perhaps, through forms of life that are not human, and,
maybe, through certain minerals and gases that appear to have some of
the attributes of consciousness. Of these last things I do not speak
with certainty. But sure it is that each man and woman has within him
and her something of the Holy Spirit. God sees through our eyes and
hears with our ears. Therefore, we are all God: we are all the same.
Between the ‘wicked’ man and the ‘good’ man there is no shadow of
difference. If one hates another, he is hating himself.”

His pleasant, eager smile, his vehement eyes, and his tall, athletic
frame made many women desire him, but he went to bed with none, for all
the grosser appetites of his body seemed to have been sublimated into an
ecstatic spiritual passion that spent itself in a thousand deeds of
compassionate love.

They thought him mad, but they never reviled or taunted him, for he was
known throughout the entire breadth of that city as a man of noble deeds
and imperishable kindness.

“Poor boy!” said Susannah, the Jewish woman who sold vegetables, “‘tis a
pity so fine a fellow should be wasted. Those lips of his were made for
kissing.”

“You say what is right,” agreed Zacyntha, a lewd Greek woman. “A night
of love with him would but whet one’s appetite.”

Strange it was that none of those women of the half-world ever attempted
to tamper with him, but vileness must always recognize and fear what is
pure. They gazed at him often with eyes of longing, it is true, but the
gaze he gave in return was always the very negation of sex.

“A fool! A Parsifal!” commented the respectable ladies, for most of them
would most gladly have lost their respectability had Dmitri been willing
to snatch it from them.

Now, in a dark street of that city it was that Dmitri dwelt, inhabiting
two rooms in the house of Jacques Laborde, a young Frenchman who taught
many languages. Jacques and his wife, Madelein, loved him for his
goodness, but a time came when they were afraid on his account.

“You have noticed something, eh?” asked Madelein one night, as she and
her husband sat alone.

“About _him_?... Yes, yes. How can one express it? It is just as though
he had begun to lose himself, as though he had spent so much of himself
that there was little left to spend--less every day.”

“Yes--that’s it. Yet his appetite is good, he is as strong as ever, and
he has never been more cheerful.”

“Do you ever feel,” asked Jacques, after a pause, “do you ever feel when
he is talking to you, that he is giving you something of
himself--merging his personality into yours?”

“That _is_ the feeling. I don’t like it. Just as though his soul was
escaping from his body into mine.... Sometimes, Jacques, I’ve felt as
though something of his personality--something ghostly, ghastly,
too--had floated from him to me. It’s made a change in me. It’s coloured
me faintly, like a few drops of red wine in a glass of water. Is such a
thing possible?”

“I don’t know,” answered her husband, uneasily. “Tell me: has the change
in you been for evil or for good?”

She pondered a minute.

“Neither one nor the other, I think,” she answered. “The change has made
me more vivid: it has sharpened me--put an edge on my feelings. Perhaps,
really, it has made me more myself.”

“Why have you not spoken of this before?”

She laughed, nervously.

“Because it was uncanny, and I was uncertain. I’m not certain even now.
One gets fanciful in my condition. Mamma has warned me to expect strange
thoughts.”

Jacques clenched and unclenched his fists.

“It’s only fancy--of course it’s only fancy.”

“Yet there _is_ a change in Dmitri!” urged Madelein.

“Yes. But if Dmitri changes, we don’t.”

He put an end to the conversation by going into the kitchen to draw
beer.

But when, later that evening, Dmitri entered the house and looked into
their room for a chat before going to bed, they were immediately
startled by his appearance and manner.

“Is all well with you?” asked the young Greek, standing in the doorway.

“Yes, indeed,” answered Jacques. “And you?”

“I am so happy,” answered Dmitri, “that I could almost shout with it. I
am getting to the heart of the Great Secret at last. I am beginning to
prove from my own experience that what I have always preached is true.”

His large, magnetic eyes dropped their gaze first upon Jacques and then
upon Madelein: upon her eyes his gaze floated, and then sank into them.
He was not looking at her eyes, nor yet beyond them: he was penetrating
within them. The woman did not flinch, but greedily drank his gaze.

“What are you doing?” she asked, in a whisper.

“Do you not feel,” he asked, slowly, “that you are not now what you were
a minute ago?”

“Dmitri! Dmitri!” exclaimed Jacques; “you must not do that.”

But the Greek did not move his gaze from the woman’s face.

“We are all one,” he said; “there is no real separation between any of
us: it is merely these houses of flesh that keep us divided. When our
bodies die, all our souls will merge into one Soul.”

Jacques rose timidly, and put his hand on Dmitri’s arm.

“You must not do that!” he said, gently.

And because Dmitri still gazed into Madelein’s eyes and she into his,
Jacques placed himself between them and broke the spell.

“Sit down, Dmitri,” said Jacques.

Dmitri’s face had the look of a man whose soul is being disintegrated.
He had lost his personality. His eyes were dull, his face was lifeless.
His body, his movements, his attitude still suggested abundant strength:
simply, his spirit had suffered eclipse.

“I want to give myself to my fellows,” he muttered, “but no one will
take me. I am the rejected of all men. My soul is sent back to its home
each time it tries to escape.”

He sat down heavily, and brooded.

There, a little later, they left him, for his mood of gladness had been
transformed into one of gloom, and though next morning, as he dressed,
Dmitri sang out of a deep heart filled to the brim with joy, Jacques
looked significantly and sorrowfully at his wife. She, in turn,
questioned him with her eyes. But neither spoke.

       *       *       *       *       *

A week passed.

There came a day when Dmitri, feeling that almost any time now his soul
might leave his body never to return, decided to stay indoors and give a
final revision to the little book he had written.

His bedroom window looked upon a narrow street. Across the way was a
wine-shop, and even at this early hour a few men were sitting drinking
at the little tables placed on the pavement. For a few minutes Dmitri
stood gazing lovingly and compassionately at the passers-by; then,
abruptly, and with a sudden sigh, he turned away, and sat down at a
small table upon which he had placed the MS. of his book.

He read steadily from the beginning. Half-way through he came upon this
passage.

     _The soul clings to its body; the spirit yearns for its
     companion-flesh. Is it true that only death can separate them?_

     _It is impossible for us to love others more than we love
     ourselves, if our souls cling to us in this despairing way. Loving
     is giving: loving is surrender of one’s self: one’s self is one’s
     soul.... But my soul refuses to be surrendered. It will not leave
     me. Even when, because of my love for others, I try to banish it
     from my body, it will not go, or, if it does go, it soon returns.
     Is it refused, I wonder, by those to whom I give it?_

     _Often I feel people wanting me; often I feel them asking for me.
     The magnetic ones draw me._

He sat and pondered. He recalled how, throughout the whole of his life,
he had with joy spent himself upon others. A passion for giving had
always been his. As a boy, he frequently had felt an aching desire to
give himself to the sea--to swim out into the depths and, spreading out
his arms, swoon away into nothingness, making himself a part of that
water. Sometimes, even, he had wanted to give himself to fire, to walk
naked into a white, inviting furnace. And, always, when on the edge of a
cliff, he felt the great pull of space--a quick eagerness to disappear,
to dissipate himself into nothingness.... To give himself--no matter to
what, if only it were greater than he--was the passion that haunted him
continually. Not to cease his existence; not to cast the universe from
him; not to repudiate the life that had been given him. But to live more
fiercely in flame, more largely and grandly as a part of a great giant
ocean, more freely as an atom in illimitable space.

Best of all, to give himself to humanity: not to live in one body, but
in a million bodies....

As he sat, a thought came to him--a thought that thrust into and pierced
him, as a sword thrusts and pierces, that shook him to the very
foundations of his being.

“If one man cannot draw from me my soul, a great crowd of men may--nay,
must,” he told himself; “I know that even one man or woman can take from
me and absorb for a brief period something of my spirit; surely, when a
thousand men and women are pulling at me like a thousand magnets, my
spirit will go entirely out of me and live in them for ever.”

The argument seemed so logical and so obvious, that he wondered at
himself for not thinking of it before.

He abandoned the reading of his MS., and began to pace the room. His
excitement almost frenzied him, and his thoughts ran wildly.

“I must dress for the occasion. A purple robe. And a message. I shall
give it out that I have a message. At the north of the Citadel it shall
be, and as I talk to them I shall face the east.”

He visualized the waiting crowd so vividly that his body acted as though
the occasion had already arrived. He stopped walking and threw out his
arms. His eyes became dilated. His lips moved. And then from his moving
lips a torrent of speaking poured. He held his hearers. Even the little
children in his brain were awed: he saw them huddling against their
mothers.... With a shudder he came to himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were many newspaper offices to visit. One of them, in return for a
column advertisement, agreed to publish an “interview” with him. He
advertised his meeting outside the Citadel in every newspaper, however
obscure, for he felt he had no further use for his savings. “When my
soul leaves me altogether,” he whispered, to himself, “my body will
die.” He bought a scarlet robe in the Bazaar.

Jacques and Madelein watched him anxiously during the following days.
Several times he spoke to them of his “ending,” and told them it was
near at hand. He put his small affairs carefully in order, and handed
what remained of his savings to Jacques.

“I will keep it for you,” said Jacques.

“No: it is yours. In a day or two I shall have no further use for money.
Only the husk of me will remain.”

Jacques looked at him very sternly.

“Have I been a good friend to you, Dmitri?” he asked.

“Why, yes. Always. You and Madelein have always been my best friends.”

“Well, then, tell me what you are going to do. Why do you hand me your
money? Why do you speak of only the husk of you remaining? What is the
meaning of your advertisements in the newspapers?”

Dmitri smiled.

“Do not be anxious about me, Jacques,” he entreated; “no harm will come
to me--only a great good. The most wonderful thing that can happen to
anybody is about to happen to me.”

And Jacques’ further persuasion had no power to make Dmitri speak.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Dmitri, clad in his purple robe, walked through the streets of
Salonika on the evening appointed for his meeting outside the Citadel,
he was followed by a large crowd of friendly people; indeed, he walked
in the midst of the crowd, talking as he went. He bore himself regally,
and his face shone with joy.

He had only a mere handful of disciples, but there were very many, both
rich and poor, who liked him, and there were still more who were driven
by curiosity to that high ground outside the city walls, which looks
towards the jagged mountains above Hortiach.

Having arrived at the place he had selected for the delivery of his
Message, his disciples went among the assembled people, directing them
where to sit. Men and women, to the number of nearly a thousand, seated
themselves in a semicircle on the higher slopes of the hill; on the
hill’s summit stood Dmitri, looking down upon the faces lit by the sun
in its setting.

Bareheaded, he stood and raised both arms for silence. The eager speech
of his beholders died suddenly. Dmitri stood for a long minute without a
word: then, just when the silence was becoming uncomfortable, he spoke
in his golden voice.

“Many of you have come here from curiosity; a few have come because of
their love. But I have the same message for everyone. All the great
teachers of the world have loved their fellows: no man can teach or be
taught without love. Because I desire to teach you something now, I ask
any of you who hate me, or secretly jeer at me, or despise me, to kill
that hate and that mockery and that contempt. Indeed, no man among you
can hate me without also hating himself. For we are all one. We are not
a thousand different souls, but one soul. There is only one soul in all
the wide world, but each of your bodies contains a part of that soul:
the great, brooding spirit of the Universe is split up into millions of
parts. Of those millions of parts I possess but one. It is the dearest
thing I have: it is the _only_ thing I have. My body is nothing--just
dust. It is the same with you all: your bodies are merely the prisons of
your souls.

“Many of you will not understand me now, but I ask you, when I am gone
from among you, to consider my words. You will all, however, understand
this: no man gives unless he loves. If I want to give you something, it
is because I love you. I _do_ want to give you something. I want to give
you myself: my soul. It is yours. Take it.”

He paused. The blank faces of the men and women hurt him. They thought
him mad. He could see that many of the people were whispering to each
other. Some were even smiling.

“Listen!” he shouted, passionately. “I want to give you myself so that I
may prove to you that we are all one--that our souls are one soul. If my
soul can depart from my body into your bodies, then you will know that
we are, in truth, all one, and that to hate or hurt your neighbour is to
hurt and hate yourselves, and that to injure yourselves by wickedness is
to injure all the souls in all the world.

“I ask all who love me, and who have understood the words I have
spoken, to make themselves ready to receive me.”

With excitement and passion, he attempted to confuse his mind and reduce
it to chaos by inviting a multitude of varied thoughts. He stiffened his
muscles and opened his eyes to their widest. He willed his soul to
depart. Madness painted his face a ghastly white, his features became
convulsed, the veins in his forehead stood out horribly....

And now the onlookers stared in fascination. A few murmured with fear
and disgust.

For a minute and more Dmitri stood in silence, goading himself on to
unrestrainable madness. His mind broke. He began to paw the air with his
hands. And then, smiling stupidly, he sat down and played with his
fingers.

His disciples rushed upon him.

“The miracle has come to pass!” exclaimed one.

“Poor Dmitri!” said a man who was not a disciple; “he gets worse and
worse! His madness is incurable.”

Hundreds of men and woman crowded round him, but Jacques was one of the
first to reach his side. With the help of others, he led Dmitri from the
crowd and took him home.

       *       *       *       *       *

A month passed.

Dmitri came downstairs to the room in which Jacques and Madelein were
sitting. His face had no meaning. His eyes were empty.

He sat down at the table, and tears began to run down his cheeks.

Jacques stared at him for some little time in profound distress.

“We must get rid of him,” he said, aloud, to Madelein, “if only for your
sake.”

“Yes,” answered his wife, sorrowfully; “I can bear him no longer. He
must go.”



THE STRANGER

To
Adrian L. Burns



When my friend Trevor Hempel disappeared from among all his friends, he
left me the following letter:

       *       *       *       *       *

I am off to Australia to-morrow, and I’m going without saying farewell
to any one. It is a choice between my committing murder and leaving
Europe for ever. Nature has played me false--has tricked me. Between my
wife and me she has placed something monstrous: a “sport” so hideous
that to live any longer as a husband would mean a swift corrosion of
anything good that is left of me.

I felt, my dear old friend, that I must speak out my mind to some one.
It is a selfish feeling. I want to rid myself of the obsession of this
wickedness. I want you to share its knowledge with me. The thing is of
such a kind that it ought not to have happened. Nature ought not to lie
in wait for us and spring out like a baboon from behind a tree. We know
Nature is cruel, but not until lately did I know she could be malignant,
damnably malignant, looking years ahead, calculating craftily all the
time....

It is nine years since I met the woman who afterwards became my wife. I
was in Salonika on one of my quarterly business visits. At the house of
Madame Leconte de Stran it was that I met Judith for the first time. Her
husband was with her: a dark evil man, short, with a great head and
depth of chest and long, deformed arms. She was as spiritual as he was
gross: very quiet, but full of character, and with a mind both strong
and active.

I remember going up to Madame de Stran.

“Who is that woman standing against the piano?” I asked.

“Mrs. Sterling. Don’t you know her?”

At the word “Mrs.” I felt that quick annoyance that sometimes comes to
one when one hears for the first time that a woman one admires is
married.

“No. Is her husband here?”

She indicated the shambling figure I have described to you.

“That!” I exclaimed. “That evil-looking beast her husband? Impossible!”

Madame de Stran gave me a quick, inquisitive look.

“Professor Sterling,” she said, “is perhaps the most distinguished man
of science in Salonika. Why do you call him a beast?”

“Did I? I’m sorry. Tell me more about him.”

“Well, he describes himself as an experimental psychologist. He
experiments in hypnotism, vivisects brains, and.... Last year he
published in Rome a book that is talked about rather secretly.”

She stopped for a moment, and then laughed.

“All this sounds rather horrible,” she added, “but I suppose it isn’t
really. At all events, he is greatly respected here by all men of
learning.”

“If an opportunity arises,” I said, “will you introduce me to her? What
I mean is, I don’t want the introduction to be conspicuous.”

She nodded and smiled.

“You’ll find her very charming,” she said, as I walked away.

And later on Madame presented me to Judith.

From the very first moment we talked without restraint. But then, as I
learned afterwards, she was never restrained with anybody. She was
utterly frank and natural; interesting, too; full of curiosity about
life.

What appealed to me most in her, I think, was her careful choice of
words when discussing any subject that really mattered. Her speech was
free from all exaggeration; she never invented opinions on the spur of
the moment as so many people do in casual conversation. This pleased and
attracted me. But there was something in her that repelled--that kept me
at a distance. All the time we talked, I felt that the best part of
her--the most exquisite part--was on the other side of the room with her
husband. She was not really with me: she was with him. I resented this.
I had no right to resent it; but I did. For, already, I was in love with
her.

Lovers move craftily. So I sought out her husband and was presented to
him. He looked me over carefully.

“You have been talking to my wife,” he observed.

“Yes,” said I. “We have been talking to each other.”

His rather large mouth smiled insincerely.

I felt he had guessed my secret. Certainly, his personality emanated a
faint hostility. He turned to Luigi Papash, ... the man who has since
become famous as a poet, and began to talk to him. I was dismissed....

You would be bored if I were to describe to you my feverish lover’s
restlessness during the next three weeks. I did many foolish
things--neglected my business, wandered about alone, and sought every
opportunity to be within sight and sound of Judith. I had only to shut
my eyes to see _her_ eyes, calm and grey, her pale oval face, her dark
hair. She seemed pitiful. My jealousy burned me. It was impossible for
me to see her and her husband together without a horrid excitement....
But you know these things: all men feel the same about them.

I learned very little more about her. The previous year, I was told, she
had had a child, a baby-boy, who had died when eight months old. She had
been married three years. Her husband kept his work hidden from her. He
never discussed it, never referred to it. But of their mutual idolatry
there was no shadow of doubt. No two people were more essential each to
the other; yet (or do I mean because?) they were entirely different.

At the end of three weeks I went back to Athens.

Madame de Stran knew my secret; oh, I suppose every one knew it. Every
one except Judith who, absorbed in her husband, never exercised her
intuitions with regard to myself. Madame wrote to me occasionally; she
was very kind. Just news of Salonika people. And somewhere in each
letter would be a sentence: “The Sterlings are still here”; or,
“Professor Sterling has just published a pamphlet on ‘The Nature and
Origin of Cancer': I am sending you a copy”; or, “When I told Mrs.
Sterling I was writing to you, she wished me to send you her
remembrances.”

Then, one morning, opening a letter of Madame de Stran’s before I
touched any of my other correspondence, I read: “Professor Sterling is
seriously ill. They say he has brain fever.”

He would die: I _knew_ it. I prayed that he should. I willed it. I
thought of nothing else all day. That detestable, dark man must die.
Judith must be released....

“Released”? What arrogant vanity distorts the vision of all lovers!
Released? Why, she was happy. Her husband’s brain was not for her a
prison: it was the wide world. His enfolding arms were freedom....

That same evening I took the steamer from Le Pirée to Salonika....

I want to describe that night to you, because it was the happiest in my
life. You must remember that for a long time I had been suffering under
a strain so cruel that my nerves and brain were bruised and quivering.
The sea--the stars--space! They brought me solace.

I remember leaning over the rail and looking down at the sea; it was
saturated with stars and moonlight. It seemed to me that I became part
of what I looked at. Does that convey anything to you? I was released
from myself. I had got rid of myself. I had become renewed.... It is
impossible, my dear friend, for me to describe what change took place in
me for that one night. It was a sudden cessation of pain, a freeing of
the soul, an accession of power. Illusion, no doubt--I mean the
consciousness of power. If I had been Zeus himself----!

At all events, no sleep came to me that night: I wanted neither sleep
nor rest. I was not going to Judith, for Judith already was with me. She
was with me more closely that night than she ever was, though I married
her. My mind was full of poets’ phrases: “His silver skin laced with his
golden blood”: lines from “Annabel Lee”: the “magic casements” of Keats:
some stupendous things from Whitman. These did not tease or worry me:
they were like the potent delicate fumes of a drug. All life was poetry:
there was no possible interpretation of life except the romantic
interpretation. Happiness lay not in gathering and garnering beauty, but
in surrendering oneself to beauty. And, in a burst, Wagner’s “Tristan”
rushed flood-like upon me; I was drowned in its pleasure-pain----

Well, he died. He was dead when I arrived at Salonika. The news gave me
no pleasure, for what had happened I had known would happen.

Madame de Stran received me.

“You look ill,” she said; “or perhaps you are tired?”

I made her sit down and tell me all she knew about Judith.

“I wish to God she had never borne him a child!” I said, when she told
me she had seen a photograph of the baby taken just before the illness
from which it died.

“He was very like his father: dark, misshapen, vulpine,” said Madame.

“Don’t speak of him. The father and the child are dead: only she
remains. Has she any close friends in Salonika?”

“No--not one that is very close, though many people like her. She did
not make intimacies. You see, her husband absorbed her.”

“And now what will happen?”

Madame told me that she had already written to Judith offering her help:
probably a reply to her letter would come in the morning. She promised
to summon me if I could be of the slightest use, and with this small
comfort I returned to my hotel to brood. Inaction lay so heavily upon me
that it was scarcely to be endured. I wanted to help--to _be_ something
to her.

That night I lay awake in dark dejection. In those days I was not used
to suffering, to anxiety. At length I slept....

Day after day I stayed on, hoping to be summoned, Madame de Stran giving
me all the comfort she could. He was buried. Judith shut herself up in
her house! At night I would walk from my hotel towards Kalamaria and, in
the complete darkness, wander in the garden surrounding her home. I
remember that I used to touch the flowers with my fingers. I used to put
my foot on the pathway and say to myself: “_Her_ foot has been there!”
The garden was magical with remembrances of her. Yet she was absent, and
the ache in me grew and grew. My eyes used to become hot with unshed
tears. Though it was torture to linger there, yet I could never draw
myself away until very late, and one night, sitting down on a bank, I
fell asleep. As I woke, the scent of dew-laden roses weakened me
unmercifully; and I sobbed without tears....

I must tell you all this: it matters: it is the heart of the tragedy
that has happened to me: that, and the remembrance of her brute-husband
who so wickedly, so monstrously, still lives in my son....

One night, while in her garden, I saw her. I was standing in a little
grove of pepper-trees. She came slowly towards me. I stepped back to
conceal myself. Her little feet on the grass made no sound. What were
her thoughts? Oh, of him--him whom she had loved and was still loving.
It was he who for her haunted this garden, not I. If my body had been
multiplied a hundred-fold and all my hundred bodies were hiding there in
the trees, she would have felt nothing. She passed and repassed, and
then disappeared into the gloom of the house.

At length, under the implacable pressure of my own self-torture, I wrote
to her. I told her I knew of her grief, that.... In short, I asked to be
allowed to come and see her.

Months later, she told me that my letter had terrified her. Some phrases
in it had called up many dead memories and, pondering, she had seen in a
flash that I loved her. Her spirit was too sore even for sympathy, and
offering her love was like offering her an unsheathed sword. My letter
brought no answer, and two days later Madame de Stran told me mournfully
that Judith had left Salonika for Constantinople....

Four months passed; to me, working in Athens, they were four years. I
did not deceive myself by telling myself I would try to forget her: no
man ever tries to forget the woman he loves. Madame de Stran wrote
occasionally, promising, and repeating her promise in each letter, that
she would tell me as soon as she received news of Judith’s return. My
business prospered: you know, I have always been successful. I threw
myself into my work, and exhausted my false, feverish energy by violent
exercise. I rode my horse an hour each day: I swam: I walked: and,
occasionally, I sought the baleful comfort of drink.

September came and went. Then in October I was visited by a mood of such
unremitting desperateness that I suddenly stopped my work and my violent
exercise. I felt incapable of any action, for I had exhausted all my
energy. I had used up my capacity for suffering; I could feel neither
pain nor pleasure. For days I sat stupidly in my office, staring at
nothing. I closed my door to all visitors; I transacted no business; I
answered no letters.

Then, one morning, as I was moodily pacing up and down my private room,
a clerk entered with a telegram. Idly I tore open the envelope and read
its contents. It was from Madame--just one word, “Come.” But that word
meant everything: it changed the whole world for me....

Two days later I was in Salonika. I did not wait even to call on Madame
de Stran, but went straight to Judith’s house.

It was early afternoon. I was admitted. The room into which I was shown
was empty. Already greatly agitated, I felt my excitement increasing
almost beyond bounds whilst I waited. What should I say when she
entered? Would she still be thrall to her dead husband? Would his
personality still envelop hers and obscure it?

She entered so silently that, though my eyes were fixed on the door, I
scarcely realized she was there. A swift searching of her face told me
she was well.

She was courteous, she was kind; but she was timid. She spoke of her
friends in Constantinople.

“I have been very busy with my work,” she said, smiling.

As she looked at me it seemed to me that she was doing everything
possible to be gentle with me; it was as though she knew she had the
power to hurt me, and was afraid that some chance word might wound.

“Work?” I asked.

“Yes. My husband left his last book half finished--a great mass of
notes, and a rough synopsis of each chapter. I wrote the book as he
wished it to be written. He helped me all the time.”

“He _helped_ you!” I exclaimed, shocked.

“Yes. You do not believe in communication with the dead? He did not
speak to me, it is true, but he guided me.”

I felt suddenly sick and cold.

“You must not believe it!” I exclaimed. “It is impossible! Such things
do not happen! You may think it happened, but it didn’t!”

She smiled gently, as she said:

“Ah! But I _know_!”

“But, dear Mrs. Sterling ... why, such a thing has never come to pass in
the whole history of the world. Why, then, should it happen to you?”

She shook her head.

“Do not let us discuss it,” she said. “Besides, the book is finished.”

“And does he still communicate with you--_guide_ you?”

“No,” she answered sadly; “all that is finished--he has gone from
me--gone, I am convinced, for ever.”

“I also have been working,” I said, “working hard.”

“You look tired. Have you been in Salonika long?”

Our talk drifted to commonplace things, and soon I rose to leave.

Next day I sought her again. She was in the garden, for, though it was
now late October, the weather was very warm and sunny. She seemed
disturbed, but not surprised, when she saw me. We wandered slowly under
the trees; their leaves left the branches as we came and fell upon our
way. I did not feel that she was unhappy. I asked if I might come to see
her every afternoon.

“Why, yes,” she said, “if it pleases you.”

So every afternoon I spent an hour with her, and, when the cold weather
came with the Varda winds, we sat indoors.

By Christmas she had promised to marry me....

Now, my dear friend, you must understand that even before our marriage I
realized that she was not, nor ever could be, wholly mine. In some
inexplicable way, she still belonged to _him_. Many women are like that:
the best women are. Sterling’s name was never mentioned; after our
engagement he was not referred to even remotely. Yet she was his. Then
why, you ask, did she marry me? Out of pity; I am sure of it. Yet, in a
way, she loved me and loves me still. No one could have been more
tender, more generous, more self-sacrificing: it weakens and unmans me
to think of these things....

I took her away with me to Athens. I was very happy. I had never
believed such unalloyed bliss as mine was possible. It never faded. And
Judith, in her fashion, was happy also.

Sometimes, it is true, Sterling passed ghost-like between us. There were
occasions when ... but let me give you an instance.

One day, in the April after our marriage, we went to Eleusis by rail and
wandered over the ruins of that once-wonderful place. Tired, we sat down
to rest on a broken column. We were silent and alone. There came upon me
one of those moods of gentle ecstasy in which the soul seems to nestle
softly in one’s body, satisfied and glad to be there. Judith’s hand was
in mine: I felt she was really _with_ me, in body, in mind, in soul. My
ecstasy increased. Lifting my eyes to her face, I saw that she also was
a-thrill with bliss. Her eyes were softened with unshed tears. Her
throat trembled visibly. Her breath came quickly.... But, Christ! not
for me! Not for this moment, nor this place! But for _him_! For some day
of long ago--for some never-forgotten hour of love with him....

Gently, very gently, though I suffered as never before, I withdrew my
hand from hers. She trembled violently, turned her face to mine and,
with a little cry, flung her arms about me.

“Oh, little one!” she cried; “forgive me! Forgive me!”

And the tears that had gathered for him were shed for me....

And now I have to tell you of the slow horror that began to creep upon
me--upon us both. For a long time, I thrust it away with my hands, I
closed my eyes to it, my mind refused to admit it. Only to-day, indeed,
for the first time, do I really accept and believe it, though for years
it has hung about my neck most loathsomely.

A year after our marriage Judith bore me a male child--a healthy baby
who came into the world without unnecessary fuss and who continued to
thrive from the moment of his birth. Though, of course, I was very fond
of the little chap, I did not see much of him. Indeed, as you know, I am
not the kind of parent who gloats over his offspring.

We employed a nurse, and both baby and nurse lived in the rooms set
apart for them. When I returned home from my work each evening, our baby
was generally asleep, and I rarely saw him on these occasions. If I did
go to his cot, Judith always accompanied me; indeed, I used to tease her
on account of her appearing never to wish me to be alone with our child.

Two months after his birth I went alone to London on business, expecting
to be away a month or so. But I was detained in England much longer than
I had expected, and when at length I returned to Athens I had been away
four months....

When, my dear fellow, I began this letter, I meant to tell you all my
tragedy in detail, but now, when I reach the very heart of it, I feel I
must hurry its telling.

I saw my son--a little black creature--and it seemed to me he looked at
me with eyes of hate. He was not mine: I could not feel that he was
mine. His nurse, looking from him to me, said kindly:

“He is very like you, sir--he has your forehead.”

“Yes,” breathed Judith, who stood by my side; “we have often said that,
haven’t we, nurse?”

I turned to look at her, but she fluttered away to the other end of the
room, and I could not see her face. So, with an effort, I bent low over
the cot in which my son lay and scrutinized each feature of his face in
turn. But I could see none of my blood in him. Nothing of mine was
his.... The dead past had come to life. Sterling still survived....

I am sure that my manner of living at this time puzzled and distressed
my friends--you, in particular. If you will carry your mind back to two
years ago, you will recollect how I plunged myself into wild dissipation
for a time, and how in a fit of most reticent yet hot anger I left wife
and home for Persia, then India, then China. All the time I was
away--until, indeed, yesterday when I returned home after my long
absence--I was trying to forget. To forget my son, I mean. For a time I
hated Judith. It was through her that Nature had dealt me this blow. If
she had not so dearly loved Sterling, I thought, this thing could not
have happened to me. But as the months went by I softened to my wife; my
hatred of her broadened into a hatred of life itself.

In the letters she wrote me she never made even passing mention of our
son.

Then, yesterday, I returned. Judith was expecting me. Her manner,
generally so calm, was disturbed, agitated. She has grown very thin,
very old.

“Where is he?” I asked.

“Upstairs--in the nursery. But do not go to see him now,” she urged.
“Stay with me a little while.”

And she put her arms about my neck and kissed me fondly. My flesh
responded to hers. But whilst we stood locked in each other’s arms, my
memory, hating me, threw up before my eyes a vivid picture of the dark
little creature I left behind two years ago. I shuddered. My braced arms
slackened. I turned away.

“I must see him now,” I said; “is he well?”

“Yes,” she answered--regretfully, I thought.

We went to the nursery. He was sitting on the floor, playing with his
toys. She stood between him and me, as though shielding him. It was
Sterling--Sterling as he must have looked at the age of two and a
half--an eager, intelligent face, long, deformed arms, a great breadth
of chest, a vulpine look in his eyes....

As his eyes caught mine, his whole body stiffened. He put up a little
hand against his face and made a sound of rage.

I do not know what movement I made, but Judith, suddenly stooping,
caught her child up from the floor and folded him in her arms.

“You must not touch him!” she said, pale and distraught.

And she placed a hungry kiss upon his lips....

And so, my dear friend, farewell.



A LITTLE CORRESPONDENCE

To
Bertram Pace



Marriage seemed to Katya a much jollier game than she had anticipated.
She liked her house, her garden, her servants; as for Guy, he was too
utterly adorable for words. Most of all, she liked patronizing those of
her friends and acquaintances who were less fortunate than herself: she
enjoyed giving them little dinners during which she would speak a few
barbed, malicious words that made her listeners wince.

One afternoon, sitting among her roses in the silent garden, she began
to think of Captain Pierre Lacroix, her Brussels lover, in whose arms
she had nestled so often the previous year. He had really been quite
perfect, and since she had returned home to Greece she had frequently,
when lying awake at night, reproached herself for not having yielded to
his wild solicitations. Never in the years that remained to her was she
likely to meet so fine an animal, so fierce a lover, so fascinating a
personality.

Her husband, Guy Fallon, was adorable, but he was not Pierre Lacroix.
God had made only one Pierre. And he was thousands of miles away in
Brussels. Still, she could write to him; if she could not throw herself
into love’s furnace, she could at least play with love’s fire....

So she left her roses and went into her cool house with its tiled
floors, it great entrance-hall where a white fountain so cleverly made a
mist of water, its great walls on to which hung, like butterflies, so
many Segantinis, and its wide passages that somehow made her feel like a
princess of Ancient Rome.

Her boudoir, however, was rather small. Its furniture was of inlaid
rosewood. There were many full-length mirrors sunk deeply into frames of
unusual shape, and the stove was made of porcelain, painted green.
Sitting down near the open window, she began to write.

     “MY DEAR PIERRE,--Do not be grieved. I always promised you I would
     never marry any one but you, but I have been unable to keep my
     word. What fool was it who years ago said the flesh is weak? My
     flesh is not like that. It is too strong. It has overwhelmed me. I
     am married. Yes: it is the end. One is finished when marriage
     comes. There is nothing left but to sit down and wait until the
     children arrive.

     “When we meet, we must not kiss each other as we used to. You may
     kiss me like a brother; I, in return will, like a sister, kiss you.
     That will be all, but even that will be nice. Do you think you will
     ever be able to come to Salonika to be my brother? No?

     “It is strange that, though I have been married so short a time, I
     should still be thinking of the boulevards, the Avenue Louise and
     the Bois de la Cambre--that I should still be thinking of you, and
     you, and still you. This is naughty of me, I know, but sometimes I
     wish that in those days I had not been quite so ... what is the
     word?... timid?--proud?--cruel?

     “Never mind: do not be angry that I was married six weeks ago. You
     will soon recover from your disappointment, your love-hunger.

     “As for me, I am happy. My husband is rich: he adores me. I have
     many friends. I play the piano better than any one in the whole
     city of Salonika. And, dear Pierre, I have you to dream of in my
     idle hours.... Take my advice and marry a nice simple girl and
     settle down; but she must not be so clever as I am, nor so
     beautiful, nor so mysterious. And you must not love her as much as
     you once loved (and perhaps now love?) me.

     “Do not forget: when we meet we must kiss as sister and brother.

                                                    “From your KATYA.”


She read her letter over and liked it.

“If he can leave, he will surely come!” she told herself.

And, rising from her chair, she walked to a large oval mirror and gazed
at herself smilingly. Then a thought struck her: she was tired: she
would go to bed and rest.

Her bedroom was very long and rather narrow; at each end was a large
window. In this room also were many full-length mirrors. Several of them
were on movable stands furnished with castors. Three of these she so
arranged that they formed a kind of triangle, the mirrors facing
inwards. Stripping herself nude, she stepped within the triangle, and
placed herself in such a position that she could see the reflection of
every part of her body. For a little while she gazed at herself
critically, anxiously, a small frown crinkling her forehead; but the
frown gradually disappeared, and in a minute or two criticism had
changed to whole-hearted admiration.

“Why, I do believe I am more beautiful than ever,” she said as she
slipped her warm body between the cool sheets.

Placing under the pillow the letter she had written to Pierre Lacroix,
she was soon slumbering.

       *       *       *       *       *

A fortnight later there came for her a letter with the Brussels
postmark. She pushed it under her plate, for she and her husband were at
breakfast, but as soon as the meal was over she sought her rose-garden,
tore open the envelope and read what follows.

     “MADAME,--What is it you mean by writing to my husband of kisses?
     It is shameful, incredible! For three days he was strange to me. I
     knew not why. But now I do know, for this morning I found your
     letter in a secret pocket of his coat. I do not know you; I do not
     want to know you. If you write to him again, your letter will be
     returned to your husband. I have been married to Pierre a year:
     already I have a baby and another is on the way. Kisses, indeed!

                                                    “JEANNE LACROIX.”

Katya was both angry and amused.

It amused her to know that her letter had lain close to Pierre’s body
for three days, but she was very angry that he had married. Why, he must
have sought a bride within a few weeks of her leaving Brussels for
Salonika. It was evident he had married a fool, a breeder of children, a
jealous woman who could not write a clever letter. It was good that he
should have married a fool. But it was an evil thing that he should so
soon have forgotten her for whom he had vowed he would remain single for
ever....

Her thoughts wandered from her to her husband, and she felt a sudden
passionate desire. Having torn Mrs. Lacroix’s letter into tiny pieces,
she made a hole in the flower-bed with a broken stick, thrust in the
bits of paper, and covered up the hole with the heel of her shoe.

Then she called to her husband who, at her summons, came from the house
to meet her.

“Hello!” he said.

She put an arm round his neck and drew his face down to hers.

He smiled and began to tease her.

“Is our honeymoon going to last for ever?” he asked, holding his head
back so that his lips did not quite touch hers.

“Very well, then,” she said; “I _don’t_ want to kiss you.”

He looked up the garden to the field where the thick weeds grew
profusely many feet high.

“Shall we hide ourselves in the grass?” he asked.

She pretended to draw away from him. So he put his arm about her waist
and compelled her to walk by his side. They passed through the flowers
and reached the edge of the field. When they stepped into the luxuriant
weeds, the grasses almost touched their shoulders. At the field’s centre
they stopped.

“I love you much better than Pierre,” she whispered.

“Who is Pierre?” he asked indifferently, taking his lips from her neck
in order to speak.

“I don’t know,” she answered, “I have forgotten.”



THE DEAF-MUTE OF KILINDIR

To
Christina Walshe


At Kilindir two men loved the same woman. Marania was tall and dark and
gentle; he had the devotion of a dog; his instinct for self-sacrifice
was as great as that of a good woman for the husband she loves. Sobraji,
on the other hand, was small and fair and cunning; as a boy he tortured
animals, and as a man he tortured his mother and sisters.

The name of the woman was Pabasca. She was very dainty and pretty, and
her cheeks were like red poppies seen in the half-light. But she was
also very evil.

It was Sobraji whom Pabasca loved, but Sobraji was poor; Marania, on the
other hand, owned land and cattle.

“If I am careful,” said Pabasca to herself one evening, as she sat
outside her mother’s cottage, “if I am careful, I can have both
Sobraji’s love and Marania’s money. It has been done before--I have seen
it.”

This thought had lain broodingly in her mind for weeks, but she had
spoken of it to no one--not even to Sobraji. And yet if she were to
carry her plan into effect, Sobraji was the one man in all the world who
must be told.

It was time something was done, for the ardent love of the two men was
wearing her down. Only this morning she had received another of
Marania’s strange letters. She could remember some of its phrases.

“Last night I lay awake listening to a nightingale; your voice was in
that bird’s throat.... The rushes bending in the wind this afternoon
were like your supple body.... I sometimes think your soul is in my
hands.”

It was impossible not to be pleased by these phrases that her mean
little soul could only half understand, but her pleasure was tinged with
contempt.

Sobraji did not make love in that way. He wrote no letters. When he met
her at night he whispered amorous indecencies in her ear which made her
laugh and laugh.

Nearly every sentence began with: “How I would like to ...!” and there
was no end to the ingenious ways of love his cunning mind devised.

But she had kept her body untouched by both men. Though love was heady
and intoxicating, she was too calculating, too distrustful, to give her
body: when the time came, her body should be sold. But Sobraji had begun
to demand, and Marania to pray for, an answer to the question each had
put so many times. It was tiresome, she thought, to be driven to speech
when she was not ready for speech. If Sobraji came to-night, she would
have to tell him her plan.

He did come. It was dark. He crept among the bushes, and she heard him.
Then, stealthily, he emerged from the plantation and touched her on the
shoulder. His hand slid down her arm to her hip and lingered there. She
bent over to him, and he seized her roughly, brutally, as a faun might
seize a virgin, and pulled her body to his.

“Oh!” he half whispered, half groaned, “how I would like to....”

Almost she swooned with ecstasy.

“Come into the plantation!” he urged.

She obeyed, and when they were among the trees, he seized her so
savagely that she turned upon him with fear and anger.

“What are you doing?” she asked, placing her hands on his shoulders and
pushing him violently away.

“Well, you won’t marry me!” he protested. “What is a man to do if the
girl he loves won’t marry him? It isn’t as though you don’t love me--you
do: you know you do.”

“If I married you, I should starve,” she said; “or, at all events, I
should have to work so hard that I should have no joy in you. Listen
while I tell you something.”

And then in a very low voice she revealed her plan to him.

“I will be Marania’s wife, but you shall be my lover. We will meet in
secret. And some of the money he gives me I will hand over to you.”

She spoke for a long time, her voice excited but very low, urging upon
him the advantages of this scheme. She explained how he had everything
to gain and nothing to lose, whilst she stood to lose everything.

“But if he found out!” interrupted Sobraji, “he would kill me! Surely he
would kill me!”

Pabasca stirred angrily in his arms.

“You must risk that!” she said disgustedly, though she knew very well
that Marania was too gentle, too long-suffering, and too profound a
believer in Fate, to wish to kill any one.

“When will you marry him?” he asked.

“Soon. Now. In a fortnight.”

“Very well,” said he; “then let me love you now.”

But she drew away from him, pushing him back with her white arms.

“Your beautiful teeth--how white they are!” he said; “and I can almost
see your white breasts through your....”

“Hush!” she warned, as she heard footsteps on the pathway leading to the
cottage. “It is Marania. I will go to him and tell him I love him and
will marry him.”

Sobraji lingered a minute after she had gone, his body a-tremble with
desire. Then, in the dark, he parted the bushes with his hands and went
his own way.

Marania met Pabasca with a smile that could be seen even in the
darkness. He took her hand in his for a moment and patted it gently.

“Though I cannot see you,” he said, “I know you are as beautiful as the
night itself.”

He led her down the pathway on to the ill-made road. Embarrassed, she
remained silent.

“Listen!” he said; “that’s the nightingale I heard last night--I’m sure
it is--the one I wrote to you about.... Did you like my letter?”

“Oh, yes: of course I did. But what did you mean when you said my voice
was in its throat?”

“Well, as I lay in bed, it was so easy to imagine that it was you
singing.”

“But I never sing.”

“No? But if you did, you would sing like that. Listen!”

They stopped walking, and he placed his hand upon her shoulder.

“When I think of you, that’s how my heart feels,” he said. “All people
must be happy when they think of you.”

“Marania, you think too well of me,” she said craftily.

“My heart is empty because you do not love me, and my house is as empty
as my heart. Think of it!--that big house with no one in it save myself
and my deaf and dumb servant, Cesiphos. It is not a home: it is only a
house. No house can be a home without children.”

“Yes, children,” she said softly, deceiving him. “And a woman is not
really a woman until she has borne a child.”

She had read that in a book and had wondered at it; she was very glad
that she had remembered it now.

“Won’t you marry me, Pabasca?” he asked hopelessly, for he had asked
this question many times, and had always been blankly refused.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

His heart leapt and he drew nearer to her, placing his arm about her
waist. They were still standing, and the nightingale was pouring out his
heart. He held her firmly and, stretching out his arm to its utmost
limit, his hand closed gently on her breast.

“You are changing?” he asked; “you are growing to like me better--to
love me?”

Her body yielded to his embrace and she turned to face him.

“Kiss me, Marania,” she said, panting a little, and pouting her lips.

But he kissed her brow instead of her mouth. A wave of irritation passed
over her.

“You do not love me!” she said.

“Not love you, little dear?”

He held her away from him for a few moments, looking inquiringly into
her face; but she closed her eyes and set her mouth. “How stupid he is!”
she thought. He could just see the dusky red of her cheeks. The
nightingale’s song ceased suddenly.

“Not love you?” he repeated. “Why, you are everything to me--the moon
and the stars, my food and drink, my dreams and my work. You are a part
of everything that is good.”

He again drew her to his breast. Her thoughts fastened on Sobraji, her
imagination transforming Marania’s body into that of the man she loved.
She threw her arms about him wildly.

“Kiss me!” she murmured; “kiss me on the mouth!”

Incredulous, he hesitated a moment; then, with a smothered cry, he
placed his lips on hers, and he stood in that deep silence lost in the
sweet bitterness of unaccomplished love.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cesiphos, the deaf and dumb servant of Marania, had no interest in life
save to please his master. His happiness was greatest when Marania, with
a smile and a sign, thanked him for some work he had done. On these
occasions, Cesiphos would return to his quarters with a glad heart and
singing eyes. His master was pleased with him: that was all that
mattered.

But when Marania brought home his wife, Pabasca, Cesiphos felt cold and
angry. No longer would he be first in his master’s eyes. The work in
which he took so much delight would be done not for Marania alone, but
for Marania’s wife also; moreover, Pabasca herself would superintend the
working of the household, and he, Cesiphos, would be relegated to the
position simply of a paid servant.

But matters did not turn out quite as Cesiphos had anticipated. It is
true that he had to work for Pabasca as well as for his master, but he
was mistaken in thinking she would superintend the household. Pabasca
did nothing at all. She conducted herself like a Salonika lady. All day
long she was idle and peevish, and whilst Marania was sweating in the
fields she was either lying in bed or wandering aimlessly about the
house.

One day when Cesiphos was working with the other men in the orchard, he
looked down from the ladder on which he was standing and saw Pabasca
staring at him in a most curious manner. He flushed hotly and went on
with his work, and though he could feel that his master’s wife was still
gazing upon him, he did not look down again. His figure stretched to its
full extent was that of a giant, and his long arms, busy among the
branches, were brown and muscular.

Like many people of bright intellect who are deprived of one or more
senses, Cesiphos appeared to possess a sixth sense, and there was little
that transpired in Marania’s household of which he was not conscious. He
soon discovered that Pabasca had no love for her husband; so he watched
her--always watched, suspicious, contemptuous, angry.

There came a day when Marania announced that he was going to Salonika
for four days on business. When he signalled this news to Cesiphos and
told him that he was leaving his wife in his servant’s charge, Cesiphos,
proud and grave, inclined his head, and then turned his gaze swiftly
upon Pabasca who, in return, gave him the curious look she had bestowed
upon him in the orchard. It was a look of invitation, of lust. Cesiphos’
stern face did not betray that he had understood, or even noticed, the
look she had given him.

At midday Marania departed, and immediately he had gone Pabasca’s
spirits rose. She took from a cupboard her three dresses and, leaving
her bedroom door open, tried on each in turn. Then she went into the
room which Cesiphos used as a kitchen and prepared herself a meal.
Towards dusk she left the house, but returned soon and went to bed.

Cesiphos sat up smoking his pipe. After a time, he rose, climbed rather
noisily upstairs, went to his room and closed the door. For a little
while he stood motionless as though listening; then, having taken off
his boots, he opened his bedroom door with elaborate carefulness,
stepped on to the little landing, closed the door silently, and crept
soundlessly downstairs.

Some instinct told him that Pabasca would not sleep alone that night,
and he knew very well that her visitor would be Sobraji, for many times
before her marriage, Cesiphos had seen her and Sobraji together at night
in lonely places. In all probability, Pabasca had given him the key of
the front entrance; indeed, when Cesiphos examined the door and found it
unbolted, he was sure of this. So he took up his place in the entrance
and waited.

After Cesiphos had waited a long time, the door opened slowly and
Sobraji entered. In the darkness he did not see Marania’s servant
crouching there, and without hurry he closed the door behind him and
locked it.

Then suddenly Cesiphos sprang upon him, his large hands encircling
Sobraji’s throat; squeezing his victim hard, he banged his head against
the wall, until the little man hung heavy and limp in Cesiphos’ hands.
Then the servant unlocked the door and opened it; gathering Sobraji in
his arms, he threw him out into the night and locked the door upon him.

During his struggle with Sobraji, Cesiphos had been too excited to pay
any attention to Pabasca, who, almost as soon as the struggle had begun,
had come downstairs with a lamp. She had stood quietly by watching
eagerly. It was too late for her to interrupt; indeed, after her first
shock of surprise and dismay, she had no wish to do so. She was thrilled
by Cesiphos’ strength, by his skill, by his machine-like calmness.

Cesiphos, having locked the door, turned round and saw Pabasca. The
light of the lamp fell full on her face, and she smiled at him. In
return, he frowned, looked away from her, and quickly made his way
upstairs. He entered his room and closed his door. Almost immediately
Pabasca followed him, and placed the lamp upon the floor.

Approaching Cesiphos, she took his hand, gazed lingeringly into his eyes
for a moment. He shook himself free from her, and his eyes blazed. Again
she approached him, her arms outstretched; but his anger became so
fierce and his face worked so terribly, that she shrank from him, and,
leaving the lamp on the floor, hurriedly went to her own room.

During the days that passed before Marania’s return, Cesiphos went about
his work with a grave face. Whenever he was in Pabasca’s presence, he
averted his eyes. Each night when he went to rest, she could hear him
dragging his bed across the floor and fixing it against the door.

His simple nature was badly bruised by what had happened. He had always
known that life was not all good, but evil had never come so close to
him as now. All through the day and during a portion of each night he
tortured himself by asking how much, or how little, he must tell his
master when he returned. Clearly it was his duty to disclose to Marania
the conduct of Sobraji, but it seemed to him unwise to tell the story in
such a way that Pabasca would be implicated. Besides, he had no proof
that Pabasca had expected Sobraji to visit her, though in his heart he
knew that an assignation had been made and nearly kept.

Upon one thing he was resolved: he would say nothing about Pabasca’s
overtures to himself, for that might lead to unimaginable misery for all
of them. Nevertheless, it tortured him to keep any of these things
secret, but he knew not a soul to whom he could unburden his mind.

On the evening of the fourth day Cesiphos slipped unseen from the house
and went to the station to meet his master. It was a cool evening with a
feeling of largeness in the air, but Cesiphos was weighed down with
anxiety and nervousness. How much should he tell? In what manner should
he tell it? Should he break straight into the subject, or should he
introduce it in a roundabout fashion?

These questions which he had been asking himself for four days were
still unanswered when he saw Marania, carrying two very large parcels,
step from the train. Cesiphos hurried up to him, and Marania placed both
parcels on the ground whilst he shook hands with his servant. He was in
good spirits and glad to be home again. Cesiphos, having picked up one
of the parcels, led the way from the station, his chin upon his breast,
his heart heavy within him.

They had covered but a short distance when Cesiphos plucked his master’s
sleeve and indicated that he wished to speak with him. With a sigh of
impatience, Marania put his package on the ground and sat upon it.
Cesiphos followed his example, and began to talk on his fingers by the
light of the moon.

“Master, I have something I would tell you.”

Marania bowed his head.

“Very late in the night following the day you left, Sobraji entered your
house. He had a key, the door was unbolted.”

He stopped, hoping his master would say something; but Marania only
stared at him wonderingly and again bowed his head.

“I was waiting for him....”

Marania interrupted his servant by placing a hand upon his arm.

“Why were you waiting for him?”

Cesiphos fumbled with his fingers, but spelled out not a single word.
Marania struck him lightly on the arm and again asked:

“Why?”

“Because ... because, somehow, I thought he was coming. The door was
unbolted.”

His master shook him angrily.

“Why were you waiting for him?” he asked a third time. “How did you know
he was coming?”

Cesiphos began to tremble. He did not know why he had believed Sobraji
would come that night. Something in his mind had whispered it to
him--instinct, suspicion, hatred. But he could not explain this to
Marania. So he sat fumbling with his fingers. At length his master
signed to him:

“Go on with your story.”

“I was waiting for him behind the door. He entered and closed it after
him. I sprang upon him and nearly choked him. I banged his head against
the wall. Then I opened the door and threw him outside.”

“Does your mistress know of this?”

“Yes. She came down with a lamp in her hand and watched us.”

His hands stopped working. Very deliberately Marania rose, lifted his
parcel and proceeded on his way home, Cesiphos followed him in deep
dejection. The servant knew that his master had not accepted his story:
yet it was true--every word of it.

They soon reached Marania’s farm. Pabasca was waiting outside to receive
her husband. She ran to him with a cry of delight and threw her arms
about his neck. He embraced her, at first tenderly, then with passion.

In the meantime, Cesiphos had carried his package into the house and had
begun to prepare food for his master. It was with a great effort that he
moved his body about, so sick he felt, so dismayed, so full of
apprehension. Through the open door he saw his master and mistress go to
their living-room. He could feel them talking together. For a long time
they talked until, suddenly, with blazing eyes, Marania entered, rushed
up to his servant and dealt him a heavy blow between the eyes. Cesiphos
staggered and fell. He rose, whimpering.

Marania then went to the entrance-door and opened it wide. Pointing with
one hand to the door, he seized his servant with the other and
violently dragged him into the passage. Still whimpering Cesiphos
stumbled into the night. The master whom he had loved and served now
hated him.

Marania locked and bolted the door, and returned to his wife.

But though she was weeping he would not comfort her, and that night and
for ever afterwards he slept in the room that Cesiphos had occupied.



LA BELLE
DAME SANS MERCI
To
G. A. E. Marshall


It has always seemed to me a most extraordinary thing that Victor
Lovelace should have been able to speak five languages. He was English,
and Englishmen are notoriously stupid in this respect. But Lovelace
spoke his languages perfectly, and as he was extremely obliging and full
of information he was far and away the most popular waiter at the
Jupiter Hotel in Athens.

I have never believed Lovelace was his real name; but that concerns
neither you nor me. Lovelace has a romantic sound, and this young man of
twenty-three looked romantic. Tall he was and slim: he carried himself
well: unlike all the other waiters in the whole world, he looked you in
the eyes when he spoke to you, and the eyes that looked into yours were
large, brilliant, and unquestionably full of passion.

In April 1914, I stayed at the Jupiter Hotel, and at dinner on the day
of my arrival I sat down at a table occupied solely by an Englishwoman
who appeared to be travelling alone. Lovelace waited on us. Before we
were half-way through our dinner I was convinced that the
Englishwoman--her name was Dorothy Langdon--was in love with him.
Whenever he brought her food, she looked quickly up into his eyes, and
once I observed her touch his hand lingeringly as she assisted him in
supporting the dish from which she was helping herself to vegetables.

I confess I was interested: people always do interest me. And I said to
myself: “Is this love? Or is it passion--a very frenzy of the senses?”

Lovelace, for his part, showed neither desire nor distress. Perhaps he
was a little more assiduous in his waiting on the lady than he was in
attending to my wants; but this might mean simply that she was a woman
and I was merely a man.

During dinner Miss Langdon and I talked.

“You arrived to-day?” she asked.

“Yes, I came from Marseilles by the _Ispahan_. Do you know the
Messageries Maritimes boats?”

“Jolly little things, aren’t they?” she said, smiling. “I like the
cosmopolitan passengers they carry, and I love curry for breakfast.”

She was very fair. Her neck, wrists and ankles were exquisite, as
thoroughbred as the human animal can ever hope to be.

“What I liked most of all,” said I, “was the rummy little music room on
the deck with the piano that made such tender, melting sounds. I used to
feel tremendously sentimental in the evenings. There was an Italian girl
who sang Neapolitan songs as though she really meant them.”

“I know,” she said eagerly; “wouldn’t it be fine if all life were like
that? But I suppose it wouldn’t, really. Sweetness so soon cloys.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “we all require bitter days in between: they add zest
to our appetite when the good days come along.”

We talked obvious things of this kind all through the meal.

“Will Madame have coffee here or in the lounge?” asked Lovelace when we
had finished our fruit.

She looked up at him and smiled divinely, and in return he smiled a
pleasant English smile that meant nothing of what she wished it to mean.


“It all depends on Monsieur,” she said, turning to me. “Shall we have
coffee here?”

“As you please,” said I.

“Very well, then, here.”

She took the cigarette case that was lying on the table at her side and
offered me a smoke.

“This hotel is very pleasant,” she remarked; “have you ever stayed here
before?”

“No, this is my first visit to Athens. And you?”

“I also have never been here before.”

Our little table was in a corner of the room farthest away from the
door. All the diners except ourselves had left. Lovelace stood some
little way off, waiting I suppose, to minister to our possible wants.
Suddenly, he put down the table-napkin he was holding, and began to move
towards the door. Though my companion was not facing him, she saw--or
felt--his withdrawal.

“Lovelace!” she called softly.

He turned and approached our table.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“To wait on the ladies and gentlemen in the lounge,” he answered.

“Must you go?”

“Not if Madame desires me to stay.”

“You may please yourself, of course. But if you went I should miss you.”

Without embarrassment he bowed, walked a few paces away, and stationed
himself out of reach of our talk.

I do not think my attempt to look unconcerned was entirely successful,
and I betrayed myself, I am sure, by asking:

“Have you been here very long?”

(What I meant, of course, was: “Do you know Lovelace well?”).

“Just five days,” she said, as though I had asked the most ordinary
question in the world. Then, after a pause, she asked: “I surprise you?”

“No, why?”

She smiled.

“You lie so well,” she said, “that I feel I can trust you.”

I feebly protested my sincerity.

“I knew him last year in Oxford,” she explained; “but he refuses to know
me now. He is afraid of me.”

“Surely not!” I exclaimed. “Why should he be afraid?”

She did not answer me, but went on to speak of other things.

“Will you promise me something?” she asked.

“Of course I will. What is it?”

“I want you to promise always to sit at this table for your meals. They
never lay more than two places here. If you speak to the head waiter, he
will reserve that place for you.”

“You are very kind,” I said; “I shall be delighted. Thanks awfully for
asking me.”

And, this time, I meant every word I said.

In a few minutes we rose from the table and prepared to leave the room.
She preceded me, and, in passing Lovelace, gazed at him with a look so
despairing and beseeching that I could but wonder he maintained so
undisturbed a countenance.

Having reached the door, she turned.

“Good night, Lovelace,” she said.

And behind me I heard his voice, low and grave:

“Good night, Madame.”

       *       *       *       *       *

If she was beautiful that night, she was still more beautiful next
morning at breakfast. Poets have described the kind of woman she was: I
cannot. I can but give you a few clumsy hints. She was as delicate as
porcelain. Her hair had the colour and the sheen of polished brass, and
her face, when composed, was all innocence and trust. Her innocence was
a lure. One felt her sex. In the corner of her lips there lurked a
mysterious suggestion of cruelty--or was it of hunger?

Though she chattered a good deal whilst we ate, I felt that she was
preoccupied. Whenever Lovelace approached her, she seemed to expand and
open like a flower in the sun; whenever he withdrew, she closed in upon
herself again. She rarely spoke to him without addressing him by name.

Of the two it was he who interested me most, and after breakfast I
sought an opportunity of talking to him.

I asked him about--the best means of getting there, its distance from
Athens, and so on.

He answered my questions with politeness, but without deference; his
manner was easy, even polished. It was quite evident he was a gentleman,
and a gentleman of culture and experience.

I told him that I had recently attended a course of lectures at Oxford
on the social life of ancient Athens, and at the word Oxford he started
a little and flushed. A minute later I noticed he was trembling and that
his cheeks were pale.

“She is getting on his nerves,” I said to myself.

I had little compunction in trying to solve this mystery, for I had, so
to speak, been dragged in to sit and watch its development. And after my
ten minutes’ conversation with Lovelace I formed the theory that he was
as deeply in love with Miss Langdon as she was with him; but whereas her
love was mingled with triumph and cruelty, his was strained with fear.
His love urged him to remain, but his fear, I thought, was continually
warning him to escape.

Though I had business elsewhere, I returned to the Hotel Jupiter for
lunch, thinking I might witness the “curtain” of the first act of this
almost silent drama; but she did not appear. Lovelace was pale and, I
thought, anxious; but he kept himself so well under control, and he
smiled so pleasantly when I made a joke about King Constantine, whom I
had that morning seen outside the Palace, that I felt his seeming
anxiety must be only the product of my imagination. His attitude towards
me was both aloof and friendly: he was determined to keep his “place,”
yet I was sure he liked me. I had copies of that month’s _Fortnightly
Review_ and _Nineteenth Century_ in my bedroom, also three or four
recent numbers of _Punch_; these I brought downstairs and gave to him,
though I remember that, as I did so, the thought flashed into my mind
that I might appear to him to be trying to purchase his confidence. But
if he had such a suspicion, he did not show it.

I spent that afternoon in the Museum, visiting the Temple of Jupiter
before returning to the hotel. The enervating climate of Athens in the
early spring had tired me, and I felt a little depressed as I walked
across the Palace Square. On entering the hotel I heard a woman’s voice
singing in the drawing-room. Opening the door, I discovered Miss
Langdon, the only occupant of the room, sitting at the piano,
accompanying herself. Seeing me, she rose.

“May I come in and listen?” I asked.

“Do. I love having an audience. Do you play?”

“Yes. Rather well. At least, I accompany well. You were singing Reynaldo
Hahn, weren’t you?”

“Yes--I’ve only just got to know him. Rather like overripe fruit, don’t
you think? Only, of course, the very best fruit.”

She laughed.

“Come and play for me,” she said.

“Thanks awfully. I was hoping you would ask me to.”

Quite the most exciting occupation in the world is to read new
pianoforte music for a good singer. Reynaldo Hahn is the most
atmospheric of composers, the most delicate, the most decadent: not a
great man, of course, but an interesting man. Like my companion’s voice,
his music has no colour: it consists of whites, blacks, and innumerable
shades of grey.

“You play almost as well as I sing,” she remarked, after we had gone
through an entire volume of songs.

“You make me play well,” I said; “you are sympathetic. That’s a silly
word--but you know what I mean.”

“But it’s really very heartless music,” said she; “it’s so sentimental,
so insincere. It suits me. I can’t do the real things--not even the
modern people--Hugo Wolfe, for example. The great men lacerate me so,
and I don’t like being lacerated.”

“No,” said I mischievously, “you’d rather lacerate other people. Your
friend from Oxford for example.”

“Ah! Lovelace, you mean. I thought you would be curious about him.”

“Well, I confess it: I _am_ curious.”

She laughed teasingly.

“If you wait long enough, you will find out everything. But there goes
the first dinner-gong, and you’re not dressed.”

I hurried away to change. Though I dressed as speedily as possible, the
dinner had begun when I entered the dining-room. As I noticed that
Lovelace was bending low over the table at which Miss Langdon sat, and
that she was speaking to him with some vehemence, I approached them very
slowly and deliberately; even so, their conversation was not finished
when I had sat down at my place.

“ ...And what happened to Walter had nothing to do with me,” she
protested, though she knew I was present; “and if it had--what then? Am
I to love all the men who love me? Are men children that they require
nurses?”

“No, Madame,” he said. “Will Madame take thick or clear soup?”

“I will take no soup at all. Write down your answer on a piece of paper
and bring it with the entrée.”

He departed, white and trembling, and for a minute my sympathy was
entirely with him.

“What surprises me,” I said to her, “is that you asked me always to sit
at your table.”

Though a minute previously she had been speaking passionately, almost
angrily, to Lovelace, she now turned to me a face at once gentle and
beseeching.

“Do you mind?” she asked.

“Well--no. To be perfectly frank, you _do_ make me feel a little
uncomfortable. Lovelace is a gentleman. Even if he weren’t, I shouldn’t
like to interrupt your private conversations with him.”

“But you don’t,” she protested.

“Well, then, I don’t like overhearing them.”

“That,” said she, “is unavoidable. Believe me, you are doing me a
kindness by sharing my table. If you didn’t sit there somebody else
would--and I trust you. Really, you are doing me a great kindness.”

“Very well, then. If that is the case, I don’t mind--or, at all events,
I shall try to mind as little as possible.”

Presently, Lovelace brought our entrées.

“Where is my answer?” she asked.

Without a moment’s pause, he replied:

“The answer, Madame, is ‘No.’”

“But,” said she firmly, as though stating an incontrovertible fact, “but
you _will_ change your mind.”

When he had left our table, she turned to me with a smile.

“Have you ever been in love?” she asked.

“Well, I have often thought I was in love. But it soon passed. It always
passes.”

She shook her head and smiled.

Immediately after dinner she disappeared.

The night was ghostly with a swollen moon. Looking from my bedroom
window at about ten o’clock I saw white buildings with ink-black
shadows. The streets were almost deserted. Somebody out there was
singing a restless song, and the restlessness of the music awakened in
me an almost insufferable pain--an ache--a dark turbulence of the
spirit. I felt my heart beating wildly, and in my soul there was a deep
desire to scatter myself on the night. What was the matter? Was I in
love once more? And if so, with what?--with whom?... When one asks
questions of this kind, one already knows the answers; nevertheless, one
does not stop asking those questions. I was in love with _her_.

I left my room and sought her vainly in the lounge and in the
drawing-room. Then I went to the deserted entrance-hall and thence to
the open door. On the top step Lovelace was standing irresolutely, his
hat on. I stepped up to him.

“Don’t go!” I said in a low voice.

It was a random shot, but it hit the mark.

“I don’t wish to,” he said, “but she draws and pulls.”

He was trembling violently.

“I thought of visiting the Acropolis,” I said, though indeed I had no
such thought.

“After dusk one requires a ticket to pass through the gates,” he said.
“_She_ is there. She will be standing like one of the Caryatides, the
moon on her face, hatless. And perhaps her feet will be bare.”

“Oh, but this is madness!” I exclaimed. “What is she to you or you to
her?”

“I wonder,” he answered helplessly. Then, obeying an impulse he seemed
unable to control, he held out a ticket.

“Take this!” he said. “It will admit you through the gates. She will be
waiting.”

“No,” said I. “It is you she wants.”

“But I can’t go. I may not. I daren’t. I told her I wouldn’t.”

And, with a deep sigh, he turned and walked into the hotel.

All that night I lay midway between reality and dreams. My senses
mingled, and I knew not what was reality and what was phantasy. Was it
possible I should see her at breakfast next morning? Was there really
such a woman or had I imagined her? Had I been dreaming these last
thirty-six hours?

The spirit of her was in my brain and in my veins like a drug. At length
I must have slept, for I heard whisperings and a voice of menace, and
again a loud voice threatening mankind and me, and then voluptuous
sighings and secret whisperings; mænads rushed to and fro in ghostly
meadows, and on them the moon poured golden blood; and then again the
voice reached me and each word it uttered was like a heavy weight
falling upon my bleeding heart.

I awoke and sat up in bed and:

“Lovelace! Lovelace!” I heard, or seemed to hear, breathed through the
corridor.

“The huntress!” I exclaimed. “The authentic vampire! The incarnation of
hungry sex!”

Shuddering I rose, raised the blind and leant through the open window.
The world outside was unreal: it brought me no solace. The houses were
insubstantial; the solidity of my own body was incommunicable to my
senses; all the world was an illusion; nothing existed save the brain
that had placed things there....

       *       *       *       *       *

A cold bath early next morning did little to restore my nerves to
health. My soul was sick: it was covered with indestructible dust from
the vampire’s wings.

I arrived at our table before she did. Lovelace brought me food. Though
his manner was calm, his face was deathly pale. Had he, like myself,
been agonized through the night? I spoke to him, and he looked into my
eyes distrustfully.

“I am going to Eleusis to-day,” I said. “Can you get a few sandwiches
made up for me? And some fruit and a bottle of wine?”

“Yes, certainly. I will tell the head waiter. But be careful. Don’t go
into any of the cottages, for fever is raging there.”

“Thanks, I won’t.... I say, Lovelace.” I spoke low, and he bent down to
catch my words. “Lovelace, I say. Tell me: what is the meaning of all
this--of everything? Do you not believe I am your friend?”

“But you love her!”

“Or hate her!” I exclaimed. “Which is it?”

“They are both the same,” he said.

And then, most quietly and with a wild mænad-look in her eyes and about
her lips, she sat down and:

“Good morning, Lovelace,” she said.

“Good morning, Madame.”

I could see that he was putting forth a great effort in order to master
himself.

She turned to me and began to talk of the weather. With difficulty I met
her gaze. Yes, there was a wild look in her eyes; it was as though she
had learned some secret in the night. Though she sat quite calmly, she
seemed to be shedding vitality all around her. Her presence quickened
me. And the sound of her voice was both a lure and an excitement.

“I am going to Eleusis to-day,” I told her, “but I shall be back for
dinner.”

“And what do you expect to find there?”

“Not very much, I’m afraid. Just a heap of broken marble.”

“But underneath the marble are the Mysteries--the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Do you know what they were?”

“No,” said I; “does any one?”

“Yes: I do. They were sex mysteries. The Ancient Greeks worshipped woman
in the form of a goddess. They sacrificed to her. In those days they
feared women, and they were continually trying to propitiate them. But
since then they have tamed my sex. Only a few of us remain.”

“‘Us'?” I queried.

“Yes--the devastators--the women who have no use for a man once they
have known him. You have heard of the marriage in the sky?”

I shook my head.

“The queen bee marries the best male of the hive high in the blue of
heaven, out of sight. The ecstasy over, the male drops down to earth,
dead. You will find it all in Fabre.”

“Yes? And then?”

“Nothing--that’s the end of it.”

“Was that the end of Walter?” I asked, goaded on by I know not what.
And, as she did not reply, I added: “Is that to be the end of Lovelace?
Is that why he is afraid of you? Do you carry about with you some evil
spell?--some enchantment of death?”

She drew away from me a little and sat back in her chair.

“You are afraid of me,” she said.

“I think not,” I answered, “but you disturb my dreams. Most horribly you
disturb them.”

“So already it has begun to work on you,” she said with mild interest.

“Have you cast a spell upon me?” I asked. “Am I in a state of
semi-hypnosis?”

“I have done nothing. It is not you whom I want. It is Lovelace.”

I made but a scanty meal, and as I walked to the station I was resolved
that Miss Langdon should not enter my thoughts all day. She had spoken
the truth: I was afraid of her. I feared her as the drunkard fears
alcohol, as the morphinomaniac fears his drug.

But who can command his thoughts when those thoughts have for their
breeding-place senses that have been whipped to excitement by the
invitation of sex? I was unhappy all day.

From Eleusis I walked along a narrow track to the sea. I bathed, and
then sat naked in the sun. Again I bathed among the rocks, and once more
sat gazing upon the blue islands and the purple islands and the green
land near. No human being was in sight, no dwelling-place, no sign of
life. Even the sky was empty of birds.

It was not difficult for me to imagine it was two thousand years ago.
Then everything--sky, sea, and land--would appear exactly as it did
now. Perhaps in those times men were wiser than they are to-day. True,
mankind had collected and co-ordinated a few million facts unknown to
the men and women who worshipped and sacrificed in the Temple of
Demeter, but, after all, what are facts? Are they not the very masks of
truth, as a man’s face is the mask of his soul?...

Almost could I see her in the divine Temple, worshipped and feared....
Woman enthroned; man on his knees, craving a boon. Woman in league with
Nature: man Nature’s victim. Woman accepting; man giving....

I dressed, and ate the food I had brought with me. The wine enervated
me, and soon I slept.

Again she sent her thoughts to me, and my dreams were soaked through and
through with her rapacious personality. I was being nailed down under a
rich carpet in Samarcand. In another room of the Palace were proud music
and rejoicings....

Haunted myself by those dreams, I will not stain this page by recording
them....

I awoke.

“If sleep means this,” I exclaimed aloud, “I’ll sleep no more.”

On my way back to Athens I told myself that on the following day I would
set out for Corinth. I would escape. But I must see the Parthenon first.
I would borrow Lovelace’s ticket and go to-night. There would be a
moon....

There were no bounds to my relief when Lovelace, bringing me my soup at
dinner-time told me, in answer to my inquiry, that Miss Langdon was
resting.

“Madame has a headache,” he said, “and will dine in her own room.”

Immeasurable relief--yes! But profound disappointment and anxiety also!

What an unaccountable hunger mine was! Love-hunger! The wish to love
what one fears and perhaps hates!

“You look ill, Lovelace,” I said.

“I am feeling ill,” he confessed.

“And so am I. Not sick in body, but sick in soul.”

“I also,” he said.

“Come nearer, Lovelace. Bend down. Now--” I lowered my voice almost to a
whisper--“won’t you tell me? _Please_ tell me.”

“It’s happened before in the world,” he said, “many times. Keats wrote
about it in his ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci.’”

“But this is different,” I urged.

“No, I think not. It is much the same.”

“But that was poetry and this is madness.”

“All things are very much the same. Even fire and water are not so much
opposed as we sometimes believe, and I remember being taught at school
that diamonds and charcoal are first cousins.”

“Yes--but about Walter. Who was Walter? What did she do to him?”

“She killed him,” said Lovelace; “he shot himself. He was my brother.”

“Oh, do forgive me for asking you. I had no idea--I say, Lovelace, I’m
leaving to-morrow. I can’t stand it any longer.”

“You are very wise. I am going also.”

He moved away--this man who was a stranger to me, but whom I seemed to
know so well.

I could eat very little, so I left the dining-room for the lounge, where
I ordered a large brandy-and-soda. I stayed there smoking and drinking
for some time, but she did not come, and, at length, I rose and sought
Lovelace. He was wandering about aimlessly in the hall.

“I’m going to the Acropolis,” I said; “would you be so kind as to lend
me your ticket--that is, if you are not going to use it yourself.”

He gave me a strange, inquiring look.

“Certainly. I have it with me--here it is.”

I went alone, half hoping, wholly fearing, that Miss Langdon might be
there.

Passing the Temple of Jupiter, I walked up the steep road that winds
along the side of the Acropolis. Nothing stirred. The moon seemed to be
fixed in the sky by its own cold passion. The thick dust on the road
looked like powdered silver. A few crickets chirped. Up above, within
the Parthenon itself no doubt, a man was singing one of the
_Dichterliebe_. It was a night of intolerable heartache. My soul seemed
to melt and diffuse itself through every part of my body....

I arrived at the gates and, refusing the proffered services of a guide,
was admitted. Above me the columns of the Parthenon gleamed coldly in
the light of the moon. I mounted the marble steps, reached the nearest
column, and touched it. For a moment I felt soothed. Sitting down, I
pondered on that turn of Fate which had brought me to Athens, had
directed me to that hotel, had guided me to that table. Even here where
I sat her spirit was about me. Oh, if only she were there by my side! If
only my lips were on hers and her hand on my heart!

Almost suffocated with longing, I arose and wandered to and fro, looking
at everything, but seeing nothing.

Then, near the Caryatides, I stumbled upon her. She was lying
full-length on the ground.

“So you have come, Victor,” she said.

For a moment I paused, breathless and afraid.

“No: it is I.”

“You?”

“Lovelace lent me his ticket.”

“Thinking he himself would escape?”

“I don’t know what he thought. I am not in Lovelace’s confidence.”

“Sit down by my side!” she commanded.

I dropped to the ground and lay down; my lips closed on hers; she rested
in my arms. Neither of us spoke; nor did we move. For some minutes we
had remained thus, when I began to experience a sensation of vague
discomfort which rapidly changed to one of fear. Something inimical and
powerful emanated from her body to mine. I withdrew my lips and she
sought them with hers. I slackened my arms and hers tightened about me.

“Let me go!” I exclaimed. “What are you? For God’s sake, let me go!”

Brutally I tore her arms away and flung her from me as a man would fling
away a snake that had coiled round him in his sleep. She sighed deeply
and moaned.

“Pray do not leave me. I am ill.”

But I walked rapidly away, unheeding. In an instant she was with me,
soft-footed, eager-eyed. She watched me as a panther watches its prey.
Her mouth smiled with mysterious knowledge, and her intuitive elflike
hands were spread out before her. In my terror I imagined I could feel
evil oozing from her pores.

“Stay with me! Love me!” she said in a voice of most treacherous music.

I turned upon her with arms upraised and fists clenched, threatening
her, but she sank all shuddering upon my breast.

It was then that I was overcome by panic fear. Tearing her from me, I
ran to the entrance-gate, rushed down the pathway and on to the road,
and escaped to the hotel. Then I sought Lovelace.

“Here is your pass,” I said.

“Ah, you have escaped! She was there?”

“It was an ‘escape’ then?” I asked. “She really _is_ evil?”

“She is very much to be feared,” he said.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night I slept not at all. I did not wish to sleep: I was afraid to
surrender myself to the Unknown. I kept my light burning and, to pass
the time, ruled many sheets of paper with the bass and treble clefs,
and began to write down Beethoven’s “Sonate Pathétique” from memory.
Strange how this noble music seemed to decay as it passed through my
mind! Strange how the familiar melodies were tinged with wickedness!...

Night passed and dawn came early. At seven o’clock I rang my bell and
when the chambermaid appeared I ordered my breakfast.

“Will Monsieur have it in his room?”

“No” said I. “I will have it downstairs in half an hour. Please have my
bill made out ready for me.”

The dining-room was deserted as I sat down. A waiter came.

“Where is Lovelace?” I asked.

The man hesitated a moment.

“Where is Lovelace?” I asked again; “I wish to see him before I leave.”

“Lovelace, sir? Monsieur will not betray my confidence?”

“No, no. What is it? What has happened?”

“We have orders not to speak of it. But Lovelace was found dead in his
bedroom an hour ago. He has shot himself.”



INTO DUST

To
Vernon W. S. Ply


Jason and Artemis had been married only two years when they learned,
beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the sickness from which Jason had for
some time been suffering was consumption. They were both young and very
brave; nevertheless, they bowed their heads in resignation. Jason was
doomed. Three brothers and sister had already died of the disease;
consumption had killed his mother and his paternal grandfather. Decay
had been poured into his blood-vessels by both father and mother, and
there was no course open to him but to submit to Fate.

For ten hours a day they stitched carpets at the big factory near the
Cathedral, earning enough money to keep them in tolerable comfort in
their two-roomed lodging in Rue Egnatia. But the time soon came when
Jason was unfit for work, and the twenty-five drachma note that Artemis
carried home each week had to provide for the needs of both. Artemis
made a great show of eating big meals, but she denied herself even the
necessaries of life in order that Jason might have the costly foods that
nourished him.

If she had loved him in health, she now worshipped him in sickness, for
Jason was not only husband--he was like a son as well. And, indeed, he
soon became as helpless as a little child. Her grief was bearable
because she was so constantly employed that she had no time in which to
brood upon it; the circumstances that poisoned her mind was that she
could not tend him in the daytime, for she was compelled by her work to
leave him in the care of their landlady.

Very soon their savings came to an end. Medicines and rich foods
exhausted her weekly wage two days after she received it, and it became
imperative to earn a much larger sum.

“Dear Artemis,” said Jason one evening, as he lay in bed watching her
mending a stocking, “it’s wonderful how far you make the money go. But I
think I can guess how you manage it. You don’t eat enough yourself. You
are pale and thin, and your beautiful hair is losing its lustre.”

With her needle poised in the air, she turned to him with a smile.

“I don’t eat enough? Why, I sometimes think I eat too much. I know I’m
pale and perhaps a little thin, but just think of the weather we’re
having! It’s the hottest August we’ve had for years and years. Besides,
I never was one to have much colour.”

She continued looking at him, for she loved his handsome dark face, now
grown weirdly beautiful with the ravages of disease.

“I wish the end would come more quickly,” he said. “Sometimes I think it
is wrong for me to take medicines and eat costly food. No one can save
me--what’s the use of it? Why prolong my wretched life?”

“Because, living, you make me happy. In all the world I have only you,
Jason. Do not leave me an hour before you must.... But we must not talk
like this; we must not grow sad when the evening comes. I’ll light the
lamp; it will be a companion for us. And then, if you like, I will sing
you a new song I learned to-day from one of the girls at the factory.”

But though she spoke so cheerfully, her heart was as heavy as lead. She
had come to the end of her money, and Jason’s food for the morrow had
yet to be bought.

As she crossed the room to light the lamp, the half-conscious thought
that had lain buried in her mind for weeks stirred uneasily and leapt
up, alive and clamant. Instantly she acquiesced in its demands. If that
was the only way out, that way must be taken.

The little lamp on the wall burned well.

“Which do you think is more companionable--a clock that ticks and makes
a noise, or a lamp that burns and makes a light?” she asked.

“Oh--a lamp. I love light, and silence doesn’t trouble me a bit. But I
would like to hear you sing. Sing softly--just for you and me to hear.”

It was a Neapolitan song she had learned, a barcarolle that swayed
easily with the movement of a swung hammock or of a little boat on
gentle, regular waves. It told of a love that was constant, of a love
that would hold through all the sorrows of life, that would survive old
age, and cleave its way through the darkness of death.

    _And if, when I am dead, my heart_
      _Turns into dust, to dust my face,_
    _I’ll ride upon the swiftest wind_
      _And find your burial place._

“Again,” he said, when she had finished.

So she sang it through a second time, her sweet, low voice vibrating
with passion.

“Love _must_ last--it _will_,” he said; “it is the only thing that can
never die.”

He turned over on his side and closed his eyes.

“Do you feel ready for your sleep?” she asked, for Jason nearly always
slept uninterruptedly from nine till midnight.

“Yes: I think I do.”

So she went over to him, smoothed his pillow, drew the sheet above his
shoulders, and kissed him.

“Good-night, husband,” she said, and kissed him again. “Good-night,
little boy,” she added, kissing him a third time.

She resumed her work; but after a time, when she was sure he was safely
asleep, she rose, put on her hat, turned out the lamp, and crept softly
to the door.

Out in the street, she began her mission, doing with a brave heart but
with shrinking flesh what tens of thousands of women have done for the
husbands they have loved.

Turning down Rue Venizelos, she reached the quay and entered a café
where loose women plied their wares. She did not dare to sit down, for
she had no money with which to purchase a drink; so she walked slowly
through the café as though seeking some one.

Now, Artemis was not beautiful, but she possessed something
more powerful, more subtly attractive than beauty. She had
innocence--innocence dwelt on her face, and the spirit of innocence
surrounded her like a halo. She was afraid of what she was about to do,
but she did not hesitate. She remembered that it had been said that
there was no greater love than the love which constrains a man to lay
down his life for his friend. But honour was dearer than life.

She loitered in the noisy café for a minute, and as she was about to
turn and leave, a man’s insistent gaze caught her eyes and held them.
She smiled. He beckoned her. Walking towards him, she sat down at the
table by his side.

“You are new to this game, aren’t you?” he said frankly, but not
unkindly. “What can I order you?”

A waiter brought her coffee. Her companion examined her closely,
admiring her dainty hands, her clear eyes, her wealth of golden hair.

“Do you know me?” he asked.

“No: I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

“Well, you must call me Onias. And I would like to call you by a pretty
French name I know--Lucette. Do you like your name, Lucette?”

“Yes, I think I do. But do you think it suits me?”

“Yes. It is dainty and so are you. And it is pretty and innocent, and I
think you are pretty and innocent also.”

“But, _Onias_!” she objected. “That doesn’t suit you at all. Onias ought
to be fat and shapeless, with marks of grease on his waistcoat.”

He laughed, pleased that she could talk as well as look pretty.

“But,” he said, “Onias is my real name. Still, I’m glad I don’t live up
to it.”

“You’re nicer than Onias,” she said, and as she spoke, she suddenly felt
afraid of her glibness. She had forced herself to forget her husband for
these hours, but without warning their little bedroom was before her
eyes. She shivered.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

“No, no. Quite, quite warm, thanks.”

“This place is very noisy,” he said, “shall we go?”

He preceded her, and at the counter bought her a box of chocolates.

“Don’t do that!” she said piteously. “Don’t buy me anything!”

“But, Lucette--”

“I don’t want you to be kind to me,” she murmured; “I only wish....”

But he took the box that was handed to him across the counter, and
carried it under his arm.

The quay was thronged, and Onias offered Artemis his arm. After a little
hesitation, she took it. Though she herself was tall, he was very much
taller. He had the bright distinction of a man accustomed to issue
orders that were instantly obeyed.

“You will come to my house?” he whispered, a little shyly. “I am a
bachelor and live alone with two servants. But perhaps you would like
some supper first?”

“No--no thanks. I am not a bit hungry. And--I am so sorry--I can only
stay with you a little while.”

“Why?” he asked; “stay all night with me--do!” he urged.

“I am so very sorry,” she replied, “but it’s impossible. I must be home
by midnight.”

“Very well,” said he, patting the little hand that rested on his arm,
“it shall be as you wish. But I’m terribly disappointed. Perhaps some
other night?”

“No--indeed,” she said, “I must always be home at midnight, and later on
it may be that I shall not be able to come out at all in the
evenings.... Do not be angry with me!”

“I am not angry: I am only sorry. Do not distress yourself, my dear. You
are very good and honest not to try to deceive me. Here we are: this is
my house.”

He opened a massive iron gate that gave on to a garden of trees. A broad
pathway led to a detached house some distance from the road. He could
feel that she was trembling a little.

“Do not be afraid,” he said, “I shall treat you kindly.”

He took her hand in his and pressed it gently.

“I am not afraid of you,” she said; “I am just a bit afraid of what I am
doing.”

He unlocked the front door, and they entered a large hall. An elderly
woman came in response to his ring.

“Serve supper for two in an hour’s time,” he ordered. Then, turning to
Artemis, he asked: “Do you like wine, Lucette?”

“Oh, no, no. Do not order me any supper, I beg. I shall not be able to
eat to-night.”

Puzzled and a little disturbed, he said:

“Very well, dear. It shall be as you wish.”

He dismissed his servant and turned to Artemis.

“Do not be afraid. No harm shall come to you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later they were again in the hall.

“You can find your way home? You will be quite safe?” he asked.

“Oh yes: I shall be quite safe.”

“You will come to see me again?”

“Oh, no, no!... But perhaps I must. But I cannot think of that now.
Good-night, Onias.”

“You are satisfied? You have enough money for what you need?”

“You have given me more than I expected,” she said innocently.

“And you do like me a bit?”

“How can I say I like you? Indeed, I ought to hate you, but that would
be unreasonable. But, Onias.... Let me go.”

“You are free to come and go as you please. If you wish to see me again
in the evening of any day, come to the café. If I am not there, I shall
be here and shall be very, very happy to receive you.”

He opened the door and offered her the box of chocolates. Gently shaking
her head, she refused his present.

“Au revoir, Lucette,” he called softly when she was half-way down the
pathway.

But though he listened very carefully, he did not hear her voice.
Indeed, by this time he was no longer in her thoughts. The three
twenty-five drachma notes he had given her were crushed into a ball in
one of her cold and trembling hands.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Artemis reached her lodgings, her husband was still asleep; but he
had evidently been very restless, for she could see by the light shed by
the lamp in the street that the sheet that had covered him was flung to
one side. He was lying on his back, with his arms stretched out on
either side of him.

Cold and trembling, she stood looking down upon him in the
half-darkness. Soon her face was wet with tears, though she made no
sound; with a gesture of annoyance, she stopped weeping and conquered
her mood of self-pity.

Having undressed, she crept into her little bed at the other side of the
room, and lay still, waiting for Jason to waken. The clocks outside
struck midnight. But Jason slept on in silence, and soon Artemis began
to wander in that land which lies midway between sleeping and waking.

It was nearly two o’clock when her husband’s voice wakened her.

“Yes, dear, I am here,” she said, slipping out of bed.

She lit the lamp, went into their other room, poured a glassful of milk
into a pan, and brought it to their bedroom where she heated it over the
lamp.

“It’s nearly two o’clock,” she said; “you haven’t had such a good sleep
for a long time. Are you feeling better?”

“Yes, I think I am.”

She held the cup while he drank its contents. Then she smoothed his
pillow and, taking a thin blanket from a cupboard, spread it over him.

Without a word he closed his eyes and in a few minutes he slept.

But there was no more sleep for Artemis. Though she had not a single
regret, yet she felt unspeakably miserable. Her reason approved of what
she had done, but her spirit revolted against it. She lived over and
over again the hours she had spent between nine and midnight, torturing
herself by remembering every detail.

Soon after dawn she rose, dressed, put on her hat, and went forth to buy
food for Jason.

       *       *       *       *       *

What must be, must be, and it is only the hypocritical sentimentalist
who feels remorse for an act which he intends to commit again when the
occasion arises. Artemis neither suffered from remorse nor indulged in
it. Nor did she rail against the fate that compelled her to sell her
body in order that Jason might live. In certain moods she gloried in the
desecration of her body as a martyr glories in the flames that consume
him.

At the end of a fortnight, the seventy-five drachmas she had earned from
Onias was all but spent. Her spirits were very low. She felt weak and
ill, and as she stared at her reflection in the mirror she realized for
the first time that less money would come to her if she allowed herself
to look jaded and ill-nourished.

Early one Sunday evening she left her lodgings, telling her husband that
she was going to visit her mother who lived two miles away on the
Kalamaria Road.

When she entered the café it was nearly empty, for the evening was yet
young; so she sat down, ordered coffee, and waited, examining the
half-dozen demireps who had already arrived. They talked at each other
in hard, loud voices. Three, sitting together, sparkled with the vulgar
arrogance of diamonds; they behaved as though they had just been
injected with cocaine. After a glance at Artemis as she entered, they
paid no further attention to her.

Customers began to drop in in couples, and by half-past eight the place
was nearly full. Artemis, shrinking in a corner, glanced eagerly at each
fresh face. She was looking for Onias. Perhaps she might have attracted
the attention of some other man if she had tried, but Onias had wished
to see her again, and he had at least treated her kindly. Besides, this
evening she was full of lassitude, and too timid to seek a new customer.
She would wait a little longer; if he did not come, she would go to his
house.

But presently he arrived with a woman--a frail creature who looked and
moved like a sulphur-coloured butterfly. Neither saw Artemis as they
passed, and her heart sank. He had forgotten her. He had asked her to
come again, not because he wanted her, but because he pitied her. She
must nerve herself to the point of engaging the interest of a stranger.
So she called for a glass of wine.

In the meantime, Onias had passed up the café with his companion;
finding no vacant chairs at the far end, they retraced their steps and
sat down at a table only a few yards from Artemis.

A waiter brought her wine and, as she glanced up at him, she saw that
Onias’ eyes were upon her. She heard his voice.

“Ah, there’s Lucette!” he exclaimed.

And, leaving his companion, who appeared to be quite indifferent to his
movements, he came across to Artemis, sat by her side, and smiled gaily
upon her.

“Where have you been all this time, my dear?” he asked. Without waiting
for an answer, he continued: “But you are looking pale and tired,
Lucette. You have not been taking care of yourself; why have you not
been to see me?”

She did her best to meet him in his mood.

“I have seen no one,” she answered, “and the reason why I came here
to-night was because I hoped to meet you.”

“That is very kind of you. Do you know Maisie, the English girl?”

He indicated the sulphur-coloured butterfly.

“No, I don’t know any one.”

“Ah, well! It does not matter. You will come with me to-night?”

Her grave, innocent face showed a moment’s confusion.

“Thank you, yes. But I must be home early.”

He laughed deprecatingly.

“But Lucette, _you_ mustn’t thank _me_. I am only too glad to have you.
Some time, perhaps, you will stay all night with me?”

“Oh, no: I don’t think I shall ever be able to do that. You promised you
would not be angry with me?”

“I don’t like you to say things like that, Lucette; of course I am not
angry with you, and I never shall be while you are so honest and
truthful. But you, in your turn, must not be angry with me if I make you
eat something. I’m going to have some supper: I can’t eat alone: you
must join me.”

“Very well,” she said, “I will.”

She almost liked him, so indulgently did he treat her.

“Excuse me a minute, please, while I explain to Maisie.”

He went over to the beautiful girl, bent over her, and spoke a few
words. In reply, she shrugged her shoulders and turned away.

“Ought you not to ask your friend to sup with you as well?” asked
Artemis when he had returned.

He smiled.

“Oh, Maisie and I are old friends; we understand each other.”

He ordered wine and food.

“But,” he said, turning to Artemis, “perhaps you would like us to have
supper in a private room?”

“I should--very much,” she half-whispered, “for I feel strange here
among all these people.”

“And so would I,” he agreed.

“The summer-house, Monsieur, is not being used, if you would like that,”
said the waiter.

Onias questioned Artemis with his eyebrows, and she nodded in reply.

The large summer-house was cool and cushioned; concealed from the rest
of the garden by a high hedge, they were alone and unobserved. Onias
took his Lucette in his arms and kissed her gently.

“I feel so sad about you,” he said; “won’t you tell me what is the
matter?”

“Please don’t ask me about myself,” she said softly; “you must just
think of me as--as someone who pleases you for an hour.”

“But perhaps I can help you?”

“You _have_ helped me. You must let me keep my sorrows to myself.”

With their supper the waiter brought a little lamp with a shade the
colour of the evening sky. It was now almost dark in this garden. Two
large white moths dashed themselves impetuously against the lamp, their
eyes shining with excitement. Excited, too, was the owl that called and
called somewhere in the grove of pepper-trees behind them....

As Artemis was about to leave Onias’ house that night, he placed five
twenty-five-drachma notes in her hand.

“It is too much,” she said involuntarily.

“Oh no: I like to give it to you.”

“If it were for myself, I should not take it all; but it is for some one
who is dying.”

“Poor Lucette! Some one you love?”

“Yes. He has nothing but what I give him.”

“I did not know that,” he said gravely. “Has life always been hard to
you?”

“Oh no! It has been beautiful--beautiful. If only Jason were well, it
would be beautiful still. You know, Monsieur, he is like a little
child.”

“Hush! hush! You must not call me Monsieur. To you I am Onias; to me you
are Lucette.... A little child?”

“Yes. So helpless, so dependent upon me. And he does not want to die.”

Sadly she turned away and walked towards the door.

“You will see me again?” he asked.

“Yes--I will see you again.”

He pondered a minute.

“Now,” he said; “may I ask?--is Jason your husband?”

“Yes, oh yes.”

“You love him?”

“He is all I have--all I need.”

“Well, then, you must come here no more. I will send you money.... But
while you love your husband, you must not do this. You have been
_driven_ to my arms: it is wrong. Yes, I will send you money. Or, if you
would like it better, I will leave it each Saturday at the café. I will
write on the envelope ‘For Lucette.’ I will tell the waiter who served
us to-night. If you ask him each time you call, he will give you the
money.”

“But, Onias, I can’t take it. I shall not have earned it.”

He turned on her angrily.

“Don’t talk nonsense! I have plenty of money. I don’t want it. If it
pleases me to give it to you, I shall give it to you.... Come, Lucette,
be sensible. We shall meet again, some day, and then we can kiss each
other without--without this guilt.”

She took his hand impulsively in hers and kissed it.

“Good-bye, Onias,” she said softly.

“And you will call at the café each Saturday?”

“I will.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

       *       *       *       *       *

During these last September days Jason rallied. His appetite improved,
he grew stronger, and every day he was well enough to get out of bed,
dress, and sit in an easy-chair for two or three hours. He ceased to
lose flesh, and his eyes no longer had their unnatural brightness.

The old Greek doctor studied him attentively from day to day, and one
Saturday morning when Artemis was away at her work, he took Jason by the
hand and said:

“You are not going to die, my son. You become healthier every day. A
miracle has happened.”

“A miracle?” asked Jason.

The doctor smiled.

“Well, when we medical people come across something we don’t understand,
we call it a miracle. But you must continue to take the greatest care of
yourself, especially when the cold weather comes. If you could go to
Egypt for the winter....”

Jason laughed.

“Flying to the moon is not more unlikely than my going to Egypt....”

When Artemis returned from her work early in the afternoon, tired, but
not unhappy--for the improvement in her husband’s health had filled her
with hope--Jason was up and dressed.

“A miracle has happened!” he announced, laughing. And then, hurriedly
and impetuously, he told her of the doctor’s visit.

“Oh, is it true?” she asked. “It is too wonderful! I _daren’t_ believe
it, Jason.”

Placing the parcels she was carrying on a chair, she flung her arms
about his neck and kissed him.

“Oh, my boy, my boy!” she cried.

Worn out with the week’s work in the daytime and the nursing by night,
she could not keep back her tears; her sobs, deep and convulsive,
revealed to him the extent of the suffering she had so bravely endured
through the past few months....

At teatime he returned to bed, and she prepared to go out.

“Sleep, if you can, Jason dear,” she said. “I am going to do the
shopping for the weekend.”

She hurried off to the café with a light heart. The envelope with her
weekly seventy-five drachmas was waiting for her. As she was leaving,
she met Onias at the entrance.

“Hello, Lucette!” he said, smiling and shaking hands; “how are you?”

“Oh, Onias--Jason is getting better! The doctor came this morning and
said he wouldn’t die. If great care is taken of him, he will live. I am
so happy that I can hardly contain myself--and if it had not been for
your money....”

Her eyes were now bright with tears.

“Are you in a hurry to get home?” he asked.

“No, not if you want me.”

“I should like to take you for an hour’s row. You look so tired and
pale, and it will do you good. Will you come?”

“Oh yes: I should like it.”

Artemis’ experience of the world was very narrow. Until recently she had
always believed that men and women were either definitely good or
unmistakably evil. Onias, she supposed, was “bad,” and yet it was hard
to believe that this gentle, kind-hearted fellow was even tainted by
evil. She was quite sure now that she really liked him--not because of
his handsome looks and his fine, strong body, but because....

It was very pleasant to be with him here on the cool sea....

At nine o’clock she returned home, her arms full of parcels.

Jason, a little feverish, was tossing on his bed. He was frowning, and
he looked angry.

“You have left me alone for a long time,” he said; “where have you
been?”

Startled, and having no answer ready, she said:

“I went to see mother. Have you been wanting me, dear?”

“No. Had your mother any news?”

Artemis suddenly felt sick: she had told one lie, and now she would be
compelled to tell many more.

“Nothing much. But I felt I _had_ to tell her about you. She was simply
overwhelmed with joy, as you can well imagine, and she sent all sorts of
nice messages to you.”

Jason sat up in bed, his face wet with perspiration. His eyes were
brilliant with the brilliant hardness of polished glass. He looked at
Artemis imploringly.

“I don’t know what has happened to me--to us,” he said. “Why do you tell
me such lies?” The sound of that last word seemed to whip him to anger.
“And where have you been getting all your money from?”

She shrank away from him and went to the table near the window.

“I’ve told you where the money comes from. My brother in London sends
it. He has sent it regularly ever since I told him you were ill.”

But she knew that the very tone of her voice betrayed her.

“You only tell lies to me because I am helpless; you wouldn’t dare to do
it if I were well and strong. You have not seen your mother to-day. She
came here just after you left, and went home only half an hour ago.”

He lay down on his pillow, exhausted and breathing heavily.

With feverish anxiety Artemis searched her mind for another lie that
would reconcile her own statement with the real facts. But she could
find none.

“I have deceived you, Jason,” she said.

“I know, I know,” he said sorrowfully.

He did not ask her why, but turned his face to the wall. After a few
moments’ silence, he said:

“You will find a letter on the mantelpiece: it is from your brother in
London. When you told me that he was sending you money, I wrote to thank
him. But he now asks what I mean. He says he has never sent you a penny,
and cannot do so as his wife is seriously ill.”

Artemis sat down heavily.

“Don’t say anything unless you can tell me the truth,” went on Jason; “I
will try to believe you had a good reason for what you have done.”

Artemis, feeling that her small world had suddenly fallen into a black
abyss, sat still and silent for a long time; then, with an effort, she
stirred herself and went about her work.

She dared not speak, for perhaps a single word would betray her. Her
secret would lie between her and her husband for ever, separating them
wider as the years passed, until, perhaps, they became strangers, even
enemies.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten days later Jason died in bed whilst Artemis was away at her work. In
a prolonged fit of coughing he broke a blood-vessel, and passed away
with his mind full of dark suspicions regarding his wife.

Artemis, worn out with anxiety, her mind poisoned, her spirit broken,
felt no shock at his death. She was already numb with suffering: she
could feel no more.

She buried him without tears, and a few days later left her lodgings and
took a single room in one of those ill-famed streets that lead down to
the quay. To her mother’s invitation to make a home with her she replied
that for the present she preferred to be alone with her grief.

Throwing herself into her work with a feverish anxiety to forget, she
passed a few days, successfully keeping at bay the suspicion--now almost
a certainty--that she was even now only in the midst of her calamities.
Even if she could forget, her sorrows were not yet over.

One restless night, when sleep was impossible, her spirit threw off its
numbness, and for the first time for many weeks she looked facts in the
face, and, speaking aloud, said:

“I am with child, and the father of the child is Onias.”

       *       *       *       *       *

At the end of November the Varda winds came. Artemis never ventured out
of doors except to go to and from her work and to buy the simple
necessaries of life. Since her husband’s death she had not visited the
café. She had, however, written to Onias, thanking him for his
generosity, and telling him of the death of Jason. At the same time she
asked him not to send her any more money, as she no longer needed it.

During these months her mind had been full of evasions and duplicities.
To think was to suffer; to look into the future was to be filled with
anxiety. If, as so often happened, thoughts of Jason came to her, she
thrust them from her.

Day by day Onias meant more to her. Each Sunday, as she sat sewing
little garments for his and her baby, she tried to recall every word he
had spoken to her. There were hours when she thought of him with
tenderness, almost with love. He was the father of her child. Jason had
never been that.

She began to make discreet inquiries about Onias, but without much
result. As she sat in her little room during the winter evenings, she
dreamed impossible dreams. She pictured herself married to Onias,
protected and loved by him. There was no more anxiety about money, no
more fear of the future. Her child would....

In the middle of one of these dreams, she was thrown back into the
realities of life by the flame of her lamp burning low and expiring. She
had neither oil nor money. She must sit in darkness.

But why should she endure small privations day after day when Onias was
ready and anxious to receive her? After all, he wanted her and, in her
heart of hearts, she wanted him. She must conquer her timidity. If she
told Onias what had happened to her through him.... Well, why shouldn’t
she? She would claim nothing from him; she would ask for nothing. She
would go to see him as an old acquaintance, an old friend.

She sat in the dark screwing her courage to the sticking-point. She
longed yet dreaded to go. At last--

“I will go to the café--he may be there,” she said. “I will meet him as
though by accident.”

Having hurriedly donned her hat and cloak, she went out into the bitter,
stormy night....

The warmth of the café welcomed her. The place was crowded, and for a
few moments she could not distinguish one person from another in the
smoke-laden atmosphere.

When half-way down the long room she felt a gentle pressure on her arm
and, turning, saw Onias.

“Well, Lucette!” he exclaimed, holding out his hand.

She smiled up at him, her face radiant with joy. His very voice seemed
to caress her. He took her hand and held it for a few moments.

“Are you alone?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered; “may I sit with you?”

“Will you? Come along--I’ll find you a chair.”

He had been sitting with a group of men and women friends, but he left
them and, taking Artemis’ arm, led her to the farthest end of the café
where, in a little alcove, he found a vacant table with two chairs.

“Now tell me all the news. What has happened to you since your husband
died?--good things or bad?”

“Nothing--nothing,” she said. “I felt very lonely to-night, so I came
here.”

“Poor little Lucette! And are you happy?”

“Yes--now, I am happy with you.”

“And to-night?” he asked in a low voice. “You will come to my house
to-night? You will stay till to-morrow?”

“I should like to, but, Onias....”

“Yes, Lucette? Don’t be afraid. What is it you want to tell me?”

“You will not mind?”

His face suddenly changed its expression.

“No, I shall not mind,” he said.

A waiter came to their table for orders.

“You will have wine, won’t you, Lucette?”

“Please. Some Mavrodaphne, I think.”

When the waiter had gone, Lucette still remained silent.

“Now,” said Onias, “tell me.”

“I am going to have a baby,” she said haltingly.

“Oh! A baby? You are going to have a baby?”

All the pleasantness had gone from his face.

“Yes,” she answered; “and the baby is....” She hesitated in confusion.
Then: “Yes, I am going to have a little baby,” she added.

There was a long silence during which Onias drew away from her.

“Are you glad?” he asked at length.

Her hands were clasped very tightly, and she pulled savagely at the
wedding-ring she was wearing.

“I don’t know,” she answered.

The waiter returned to their table with their drinks. Onias gulped his
down hastily.

“I am going to Marseilles to-morrow,” he said casually.

“Oh!” exclaimed Artemis, in sudden pain. “Marseilles is a long way off,
isn’t it?”

“Yes, a very long way. I shall be there for a year.”

His voice was cold, his manner distant. He took a cigar from his pocket
and began to smoke it.

“Won’t you drink your wine?” he asked.

She sipped it for a moment, and then put the glass down.

“I don’t want it,” she said. “I--I think I’d like to go home.”

“Shall I order you a cab?”

“Oh, no, no! I will walk.”

They rose simultaneously.

“Please stay where you are,” she said; “I would much rather go by
myself. Good-night.”

“Good-night,” he said, striving to hide the relief he felt.



THE GRANDCHILD

To
X


SCENE I

_In Guy Fallon’s Garden_

KATYA. What you have never understood, dear, is that mamma is terribly
indelicate. Proper people nearly always are.

MARIANA. Yes, but.... How _can_ she?

KATYA. I don’t know. But she’s doing it now, this very minute. Imagine
Guy’s blushes.

MARIANA. Poor Guy! But, really, if it’s any one’s duty to ask him,
surely it’s yours?

KATYA. But I _have_ asked him! He always says no. He detests
children--or, at least, he says he does. It’s a disease with mamma. “How
I should like to hold a grandchild on my knee ... the patter of its
little feet ... its first childish attempts to talk ... its soft smooth
cheeks.” That’s how she goes on. Really, she embarrasses even me.

MARIANA. Well, I s’pose it’s only natural. But what does your papa say?

KATYA. Oh, it hasn’t got as far as that; I hope it never will. You see,
mamma will only amuse Guy; papa would make him angry. After all, dear,
it’s very soon. And you must remember that even mamma only had _one_.

MARIANA. ’M yes. She needn’t talk, need she?

KATYA. But she does. She has asked me all sorts of questions about Guy.

MARIANA. Yes? What sort of questions?

KATYA. _Mariana!_ As if I’d tell you!

MARIANA. Do--_please_!

KATYA. Can’t you guess?

MARIANA. I’ve tried--hard. But, you see, I know so little about these
things. In fact, I know nothing at all.

KATYA. These things?

MARIANA. Well, you know what I mean.

KATYA. Oh! you might mean anything.

MARIANA. I do.

KATYA. If you were married, now, I _might_.

MARIANA. I should love to be there, listening.

KATYA. It’s a grandson she wants. She’ll _order_ it from Guy. And he
will look so awfully solemn and feel so frightfully tickled.

MARIANA. Oh, I _do_ wish I was married. It must be so
tremendously--well, exciting. So unexpected, you know--the things that
happen, I mean.

KATYA. Well, it _is_ rather wonderful at first. I have a friend in
Brussels--Elise Deschamps. The other day she wrote me such a funny
letter. She wanted to know whether she ought to behave just naturally or
pretend to be shy.

MARIANA. And what did you say?

KATYA. What _could_ I say?

MARIANA. Really, Katya, you’re frightfully exasperating. You always seem
to be on the point of telling me things, but you never do.

KATYA. Well, there’s nothing to tell--nothing, that is, that you don’t
know already.

MARIANA. Oh, how dreadfully disappointing! Isn’t there really more in it
than that?

KATYA. Than what?

MARIANA. Than what I know already.

KATYA. But what _do_ you know?

       *       *       *       *       *


SCENE II

_In Guy Fallon’s Library_

MRS. KONTOROMPA. I was just saying the same thing as I came upstairs.
“What an _ex_quisite day!” That’s what I was saying.

GUY. But a trifle too hot.

MRS. K. Ye--es. [_A long pause._] Oh yes, quite.

GUY. Seen Katya?

MRS. K. I waved my hand to her in the garden as I came up the drive....
How _is_ Katya, Guy?

GUY. Tophole.

MRS. K. [_Significantly._] Have you anything to tell me about--well,
about Katya?

GUY. Let me see, now.... N-no; I think not. She bought three new hats
yesterday, but I haven’t seen them yet.

MRS. K. What I meant was.... Well, it’s no use beating about the
bush--_how is she_?

GUY. But I’ve already told you, mamma. She has the appetite of a horse.

MRS. K. Nothing at all? well--quite?... no sign that?... _you_ know!

GUY. I wish I did. What is it you want me to tell you?

MRS. K. Just the truth--the honest, simple truth.

GUY. [_Wilfully misunderstanding her._] Oh, your new toque! How stupid
I am! I think it’s simply splendid. But you always do look nice in pink.

MRS. K. [_Beaming._] How sweet of you, Guy! But that wasn’t it.... Have
you ever considered, Guy, that I should like to be a grandmother?

GUY. No. Would you really? Really and truly?

MRS. K. Yes, Guy. The patter of little feet, the ... the soft, smooth
cheeks....

GUY. But I detest children.

MRS. K. Ah! You’ll never make me believe that. No good man hates
children.

GUY. No, I s’pose not. But then, mamma, I’m not good. I remember that
when I was a boy....

MRS. K. But poor Katya! Consider her. Consider me.

GUY. In what way?

MRS. K. You--you know perfectly well what I mean. If I could only be the
grandmother of _one_ child--well, that would be something, wouldn’t it?

GUY. It would be a great deal.

MRS. K. For my part, I had four brothers and three sisters. My
grandmother had seventy-three grandchildren.

GUY. Yes, people were very thorough half a century ago. Quite like the
Old Testament.

MRS. K. But you will promise, won’t you?

GUY. Do you know, mamma, you have the manner of being most direct and
open, but as a matter of fact you are speaking in riddles. Now, tell
me--what is it you want me to promise you?

MRS. K. I don’t quite know.

GUY. I thought you didn’t.

MRS. K. You see, Katya is so reticent in these matters. But you’ll do
your best, I’m sure. To win over Katya, I mean. That is, if it _is_
Katya.

GUY. Who is to blame, you mean?

MRS. K. Oh, I shouldn’t say “blame.” Although if it goes on much longer,
I may. But you’ll think it over, eh? That is the most I can expect at
our first interview on this subject.

GUY. There are to be others?

MRS. K. If necessary.

GUY. But, mamma, you don’t know how much at sea I feel. As a matter of
fact, I’m not absolutely certain that we’re both talking about the same
thing. Will you tell me what _you_ have been talking about?

MRS. K. N-no. You tell me first.

GUY. I daren’t.

MRS. K. That’s it! We _are_ talking about the same thing. I felt sure we
were.

GUY. Well, so long as you’re satisfied, mamma....

MRS. K. I shall look forward to it with the greatest pleasure. You see,
you’ve got such a big house. I should have this room, if I were you.
Bars across the windows, and so on.

GUY. But the stairs!

MRS. K. A little wicket gate on the landing. They begin to prowl about
quite early. I remember Katya eighteen years ago--_always_ on her hands
and knees!

GUY. She’s in the garden with Mariana.

MRS. K. Yes, I saw her.... Well, then, _that’s_ settled.

GUY. One can only do what one can.

MRS. K. Yes, win her over, Guy: win her over.

       *       *       *       *       *


SCENE III

_In Guy Fallon’s Garden_

MRS. KONTOROMPA. What an _ex_quisite day! How do you do?

MARIANA. How do you do? Yes, isn’t it?

GUY. We’ve been talking, Katya.

KATYA. Yes?... I think the fuchsias are better than ever this year,
don’t you, mamma?

MRS. K. Yes, darling. Oh, Katya, I _am_ so pleased.

KATYA. How nice, mamma! I like you to be happy. But what has happened?

MRS. K. Oh--er--nothing. Nothing that I know of. But Guy has promised
to....

MARIANA. I’m afraid I must be really going now, Katya, dear.

MRS. K. Oh, don’t run away just because I’ve come.

MARIANA. Oh, Mrs. Kontorompa, it wasn’t that. But, you see....

KATYA. Mariana feels embarrassed.

MARIANA. Oh--no, dear: why should I?

GUY. You felt that mamma was going to say something.

MRS. K. Yes--that’s quite right. You’ve reminded me. Katya, I was going
to say that Guy has promised to....

GUY. To do my best to....

MRS. K. Win you over.

KATYA. Me? Win _me_ over? To what?

GUY. Bars on the window--a wicket-gate on the landing.

KATYA. But I _am_ won over. I always have been.

MRS. K. Then it _is_ your fault, Guy.

GUY. If I’d only known! You see, you never told me.

MARIANA. How mysterious all this sounds.

MRS. K. Well, Mariana, this is how it stands. You see, Guy and Katya
have been married three years and....

MARIANA. Oh yes: quite. _I_ understand. _Good_-bye, Mrs. Kontorompa.
Good-bye, Katya. Goo....

GUY. _Really_, mamma.

KATYA. _Really_, mamma.

MRS. K. Oh, dear, dear! What _have_ I said?

KATYA. Ah, here’s tea coming!

MRS. K. Oh, I can’t stop. I must hurry home and tell papa the good news.
So _very_ satisfactory! These modern times--the things people _do_.
Don’t they, dear?

MARIANA. And don’t do, too.

MRS. K. Yes. Well, Guy, I keep you to your word. I shall expect to hear
some news shortly. Good-bye, dear Katya. _So_ satisfactory. Take care of
yourself, dear.

GUY. Why, what has happened, Katya?

KATYA. Nothing. Mother merely anticipates.



NERVES

To
Sieveking Pollard


When Dr. Julian Sylvester arrived at Doiran, he took a room at the house
of Draco’s mother, and his mule was put to grass in the fields behind
the town. Draco, rather shy, but hot with curiosity, carried his baggage
upstairs--a large trunk, six wooden boxes clamped with iron, and a small
sack of provisions. Placing these on the floor against the wall, he
turned to leave, but stopped when Sylvester called him.

“You speak Greek, eh?” asked the doctor.

“Yes, sir, and Bulgarian as well.”

“Well, I’m going to stay here a week--see? And I want you to get me a
young and strong guide--a man who knows the country--every yard of it.
I’m collecting butterflies and taking photographs.”

Draco’s face lit up and shone.

“See here--this is the kind of thing,” said Sylvester, going down on his
knees and opening one of the wooden boxes with a key he took from his
pocket. “By the way, what is your name?”

“Draco.”

“Draco--right. Well, mine is Sylvester.”

“Xilvesta?”

“That’s near enough. Now, Draco, look at these bottles. Butterflies--all
butterflies, see? And here are some photographs I took outside Salonika.
I want more butterflies, more photographs. Ten drachmæ a day for the man
who’ll come with me and show me where to find what I want.”

“I’ll come, sir.”

“Will you? Yes, I think you’ll do. You look strong enough.”

Draco was dark and bronzed and tall. He had quick, restless eyes, and a
smile that said: “How fine it is to be alive!”

“Well, that’s a bargain, see?” said Sylvester. “We’ll start to-morrow at
six.”

If ever there was a man made for the open air, that man was Draco. He
accepted his mother’s cottage as one of the unavoidable evils of life.
And he was a born hunter. His eyes swallowed everything, and his quick
elastic step was as graceful as the walk of a thoroughbred. His mind was
stored with facts. To look at his eager face with its large, vehement
eyes and sensitive mouth--all so desperately alive--was to receive the
impression that here was a man who, even in his sleep, could never be
entirely at rest. The sun, one felt, was in his blood. He was as
unstable and fluid as quicksilver.

Sylvester took to him at once, and in their day-long walks over the
lonely, uninhabited mountains he learned many curious things from the
man who, engaged as a servant, at once became a friend.

It was during one of these walks that, peering over a precipitous cliff,
they saw a golden eagle standing on a ledge below them. They lay
watching it for a long time, the almost vertical sun smiting their prone
bodies.

“Its nest is sure to be somewhere near, Draco. I would give a hundred
drachmæ to get a photograph of the female sitting on her eggs.”

“That _is_ the female,” said Draco, who was examining the bird through
Sylvester’s field-glasses.

Presently, the great bird rose, flapped its heavy, bright wings, and
flew upwards until it had reached a ledge thirty feet below the two
watchers. There, just visible, was its nest.

“Ah!” breathed Sylvester, drawing himself away, and sitting down well
out of sight of the eagle. “Can it be done, Draco? Can we get down to
her?”

Draco was still looking down at the bird, his face alive with
excitement. He stayed there a long time. When, at length, he joined
Sylvester, his face and bared chest and arms were covered with sweat. He
pressed his hands to his forehead.

“Yes, it can be done. But we shall want ropes. I could climb down with
the camera, fix it up a yard or two from the nest, return here and pull
up the rope. After that, it’s simply a matter of waiting for her to
settle again. The only thing is--have you got enough tubing? I reckon
you’ll want about thirty-five feet.”

“Oh yes: I’ve plenty of tubing. It’s a great find this, Draco. If only
we can pull it off, see? Now, what do you say?--shall we leave it till
to-morrow, or go back home now, get our ropes and tubing, and come back
this evening an hour or so before sunset?”

“Just as you like. But this evening would be a splendid time; for we
shall then have the sun shining straight on the nest.”

As he spoke, he again pressed his hands against his forehead. He licked
his lips with the tip of his tongue.

“You look a bit overwrought, Draco. Are you feeling all right?”

“Well, it’s my eyes. The sun has got into them. My head aches a bit--but
it’s nothing.”

They made their way down the hot, broken rocks until they saw Doiran,
white and gleaming, at their feet. Beyond was the wonderful blue lake,
and beyond the lake rose the Belashitza Mountains cutting the sky with
their fanged crests.

“How wonderful it is!” exclaimed Sylvester.

Draco gazed on the scene with his swollen pupils.

“Yes,” he agreed. “I never, never get tired of it. I was born down
there.”

It was now midday and the sun was at its hottest. The atmosphere danced
before them liquidly. No birds sang, for it was Pan’s hour. The sun had
smitten that world to silence.

Five hours later they were again climbing the mountains. Draco’s head
was one intolerable ache, but he made no complaint. He had been like
this before; it would soon pass.

But when they had nearly reached their destination, he was compelled to
stop and lie down in the shade of a rock.

“You are feverish, Draco, see?” said Sylvester. “You really ought not to
have come out a second time. You’ve got a touch of the sun. Look here:
we’ll go back and come again to-morrow.”

“No,” said Draco, “no.”

And he tried to rise; but, his legs crumpling up beneath the weight of
his body, he fell down and lay full-length on the bare rock.

Sylvester sat down by his side, took off his coat, folded it into a
pillow, and placed it beneath Draco’s head.

For half an hour they remained in silence; then:

“I feel better now,” said Draco.

“Good. But you mustn’t go any farther. Do you feel fit to walk back?”

“You go alone--to the nest, I mean. Can you climb down the rope and up
again?”

“Oh yes: I’ve done that sort of thing many a time.”

“Well, you go alone. I’ll wait here until you return. As soon as it gets
cool I shall feel much better. You are bound to come this way on your
way back.”

“Very well, I’ll do that. Sure you’re well enough to be left alone?”

Draco, his eyes large and bloodshot, glanced at his companion and
laughed.

“Of course. This is not the first time I’ve been left alone in the
mountains.”

Sylvester disappeared round the corner, and Draco, closing his eyes,
soon fell asleep. He breathed heavily, and for two hours he did not
move. The air grew cooler, and the sun was lurching fantastically behind
the mountain-tops when he awoke. The pain had gone, but he awoke with an
acute feeling of apprehension. For a moment or two, he could not
remember where he was or how he came to be there. Then, remembering
Sylvester,

“It’s time he was back,” he said to himself.

He looked at the sun: in an hour it would be dark.

Scrambling to his feet, he hastened up the mountain, his heart beating
rapidly with a fear that he had never felt for himself. He blamed
himself for allowing Sylvester to go alone, for, after all, it was a job
for two men. Increasing his pace every minute, he reached the place,
breathless and alarmed.

The rope was there. One end of it was securely fastened round a boulder.
Lying down at the edge of the cliff, Draco peered over and saw the other
end of the rope resting on the ledge; by its side was the camera. But
there was no sign of Sylvester.

Seized by panic, Draco shouted into the chasm below.

“Dr. Sylvester! Dr. Sylvester!”

But the great spaces swallowed up the sound of his voice. A vulture swam
past him and disappeared. Again he called and, straining, listened. No
answer. No sound. Almost mad with a fear that crawled into his very
vitals, he shouted again and again without pause.

Dark blue shadows crept out of the rocks; the purple sky darkened. He
could no longer see the ledge below him.

It was then that his nerves conquered him and he became their victim.

He rose and, running, retraced his steps. Anxiety made havoc of his
reason. If only he knew the worst! Almost blindly he ran, but instinct
and knowledge guided him.

Half-way down the mountains he pulled himself up suddenly. He had
thought himself incapable of further suffering, but now he felt a pain
like a fretted blade sawing at his brain. Why, they would say that he
had murdered Sylvester! Who would believe his story? Would even his
mother believe it? It was as clear as the sun. He had taken Sylvester up
into the mountains, had robbed him, and then thrown him over the cliff!
His body would never be found in those inaccessible heights!

He stood, chilled and trembling. Oh, God! if he only _knew_!

Then reason left him. He scrambled hither and thither on the rocks on
hands and knees, calling “Sylvester! Sylvester!” as he went. His hands
and knees were bleeding, and something like blood seemed to be washing
about within his brain. Occasionally, he stopped with exhaustion, but on
each occasion before he had got back his breath he started again, saying
aloud: “I must waste no time. Where is he? Where is he?”

The inhumanly human cry of jackals desolated the night. He paused and
imitated them. Then, having scrambled faster and faster in the dark, he
lay full-length, his airless lungs seeming to be about to burst open his
great, hairy chest.

The pale-green dawn came up the sky and washed the rocks with its
colour. Looking around him he saw close at hand the rope by which
Sylvester had climbed down the face of the cliff. The place seemed
friendly: here he could find release.

He stepped to the edge of the cliff and looked down. A faint mist
clouded the hollow below where his companion was lying. For a moment he
swayed, and then, with a start, drew back. He tried to totter over the
brink, but could not. Something held him back--fear!

With an effort he fixed his mind on death and on the desire for death.
And again he tried to let his body go. But it hung stupidly back: he had
a coward’s body.

He would try another way. Having walked fifty paces away from the
cliff’s edge, he turned about and began to run, his crimson hands and
knees dropping blood as he went. As he neared the edge, his body
instinctively tried to stop. But it was too late, the momentum he had
gathered was too great. Mind had conquered matter, and he ran and
vanished into space.

At that moment, Dr. Sylvester, tired and weary-eyed, entered the cottage
of Draco’s mother. He had been walking all night.


THE END





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