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Full text of "Alien souls"

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



/IRS. 






Fhe Old Corner Book 

Store, Inc. 
Boston, - Mass. 



ALIEN SOULS 



ALIEN SOULS 



BY 

ACHMED ABDULLAH 

Author of "Night Drums," 
"Mating of the Blades," etc. 




THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS : NEW YORK 






Copyright 1922 by 
THE JAMES A. McCANN COMPANY 

All Rights Reserved 



58475 



PRINTED IN THE U. 3. A. 



TO 

PHOEBE FOSTER 

Pour Toi" 



859853 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

FEUD .............. 1 

REPRISAL ............ 21 

/THE HOME-COMING ......... 46 

THE DANCE ON THE HILL . ...... 65 

THE RIVER OF HATE ......... 76 

THE SOUL OF A TURK ......... 97 

MORITURI- ............ 114 

THE JESTER ............ 125 

s/ THE STRENGTH OF THE LITTLE THIN THREAD . . 146 

GRAFTER AND MASTER GRAFTER ...... 153 

THE LOGICAL TALE OF THE FOUR CAMELS . . . 165 

THE TWO-HANDED SWORD ....... 172 

>/ BLACK POPPIES ........... 199 



PERFECT WAY ......... 215 

TAO 231 



FEUD 

TO-DAY he lives in Bokhara, in the old quarter of 
the desert town that the natives call Bokhara-i-Shereef. 
He has a store in a bazaar not far from the Samarkand 
Gate, where he sells the gold-threaded brocades of 
Khiva and the striped Bokhariot belts that the caravan- 
men exchange for brick-pressed tea across the border 
in Chinese Turkestan, and where, methodically filling; 
his pipe with tobacco from the carved pumpkin-shell 
at his elbow, he praises the greatness of Russia, 

There, at noon every day, his ten-year-old son comes 
to him, bringing clean and well-spiced food from the 
market. 

"Look at him !" he says often, proudly pinching the 
supple arms of the lad, and exhibiting him as he would 
a pedigreed stallion. "Sinews and muscles and a far- 
seeing eye, and no nerves none at all. Because of 
which I give thanks to Allah the Wise-judging, the 
Opener of the Door of Knowledge with the Key of 
His Mercy. For one day my son will wear a plaited, 
green coat and a tall chugerma cap of white fur, and 
serve Russia. He will learn to shoot straight, very 
straight, and then," he adds, with a meaning smile, if 
he happens to be speaking to one of the three men 
whom he trusts, "then he will desert. But he will 
return, perhaps," rapidly snapping his fingers to ward 
off misfortunes, "he will return to his regiment, and 
he will not be very much punished." 



2 ALIEN SOULS 

A true Russian man he calls himself, and his name, 
too, has a Russian purring and deep ringing to it 
"Pavel Alikhanski." Also there is talk in the town 
that he is in the pay of that great Bokharan magnate, 
the kuskbegi, friend of the Russians, bringing tales to 
them about his Highness the Ameer, and receiving 
milled gold for the telling. 

But ten years ago, when I called him friend, his 
name was not Alikhanski. Then he called himself 
Wazir Ali-Khan Sulaymani, that last name giving clue 
to his nation and race; for "Sulaymani" means "de 
scendant of King Solomon," and it is known in half 
the world that the Afghans claim this resplendent He 
brew potentate as their breed s remote sire. 

In those days he lived in a certain gray and tur 
bulent city not far from the northeastern foot-hills of 
the Himalayas, where three great countries link elbows 
and swap lies and intrigues and occasional murders, 
and where the Afghan mist falls down like a purple- 
gray veil. In those days Russia was not on his lips, 
and he called himself an Herati, an Afghan from 
Herat, city-bred and city-courteous, but with a strain 
of maternal blood that linked him to the mountains 
and the sharp, red feuds of the mountains. But city- 
bred he was, and as such he lisped Persian, sipped 
coffee flavored with musk, and gave soft answer to 
harsh word. 

He did not keep shop then, and none knew his busi 
ness, though we all tried to find out, chiefly I, serving 
the Ameer of Afghanistan in that far city, and re 
tailing the gossip of the inner bazaars from the border 
to the rose gardens of Kabul, where the governor sits 
in state and holds durbar. 

But money he had, also breeding, also a certain win- 



FEUD 3 

some gentleness of spirit and speech, a soft moving of 
high-veined hands, well-kept, and finger-nails darkened 
with henna in an effeminate manner. 

He spent many a day in the Khwadja Hills, called 
poetically Hill A 12, 5, K-K6/, and so forth, in the 
Russian and British survey-maps. There he would 
shoot bighorns and an occasional northern tiger that 
had drifted down to the wake of the Mongolian snows. 
This was strange, for an Afghan does not kill for the 
sake of killing, the sake of sport. He kills only for 
the sake of food or feud. 

Nor could he explain even to himself why three or 
four times every month he left his comfortable town 
house and went into the hills, up and down, follow 
ing the call of the wilderness ; through the gut of the 
deep-cleft Nadakshi Pass ; up beyond the table-lands, 
pleasant with apricot- and mulberry-trees ; still farther 
up to the smoke-dimmed height of the Salt Hills, 
where he stained his soft, city-bred hands with the 
dirt of the tent-peg and the oily soot of his rifle. 

Once I asked him, and he laughed gently. 

"My mother came from the hills," he replied, "and 
it is perhaps her blood screaming in my veins which 
makes me take to the hills, to kill bighorn and snow- 
tiger instead of killing brother Afghans." 

"You do not believe in feuds?" I was astonished, 
for I was young in those days. 

Again he laughed. 

"I do," he said; "an eye for an eye, and a tooth 
for a tooth. A true saying, and a wise one. But 
what worth is there to me in killing my enemy if my 
enemy s son will kill me in the course of time? An 
unfinished feud is a useless thing. For, tell me, can 
even the fleetest horse escape its own tail? Can the 



4 ALIEN SOULS 

naked tear their clothes? Can a dead horse eat 
grass ?" 

So month after month he went into the hills, and 
he came back, his soul filled with the sights he had 
seen, his spirit peopled with the tales and the memories 
of the hills. Often I spent the evening with him, and 
he would digest his experiences in the acrid fumes of 
his bamboo pipe. He smoked opium in those days. 

Then one day he came back from the hills a married 
man. 

She was a hillwoman of the Moustaffa-Khel tribe, 
and her name was Bibi Halima. She was a distant 
cousin of his on his mother s side. 

Tall, hook-nosed, white-skinned, with gray-black, 
flashing eyes and the build of a lean she-panther, not 
unbeautiful, and fit mother for a strong man s sons, 
I saw her often. For these hillwomen despise the 
customs of the sheltered towns; they will not cover 
their bodies with the swathing farandjts, nor their 
faces with the cliasband, the horsehair veil of the city 
women. 

Ali-Khan loved her. He loved her with that love 
which comes to fortunate men once in a lifetime once 
and not oftener. His spoken love was as his hands, 
soft and smooth and courtly and slightly scented. He 
would fill those hands with gifts for her adornment, 
and he would write poems to her in the Persian 
manner. 

And she ? Did she love him ? 

Assuredly, though she was silent. The women of 
Afghanistan do not speak of love unless they are 
courtezans. They bear children, sons, if Allah wills, 
and what else is there for woman in the eyes of 
woman or of man? Also, since love is sacrifice, can 



FEUD 5 

there be greater proof of love than the pain of giving 
birth? 

No, Bibi Halima did not weave words of love, cun 
ning and soft. Perhaps she thought her husband s 
spoken love-words in keeping with his henna-stained 
finger-nails, an effeminacy of the city, smacking of 
soft Persia and softer Stamboul, the famed town of 
the West. 

She did not speak of love, but the time was near 
when she was about to give answer, lusty, screaming 
answer. She expected a child. 

"May Allah grant it be a man-child," she said to 
her husband and to her mother, a strong-boned, hook 
nosed old hag of a hill woman who had come down 
into the city to soothe her daughter s pains with her 
knowledge "a man-child, broad-bodied and without a 
blemish!" 

"Aye, by God, the Holder of the Scale of Law ! A 
man-child, a twirler of strength, a breaker of stones, 
a proud stepper in the councils of fighting men!" 
chimed in the old woman, using a tribal saying of the 
Moustaffa-Khel. 

Ali-Khan, as was his wont, snapped his fingers rap 
idly to ward off the winds of misfortune. He bent 
over Bibi Halima s hands, and kissed them very gently, 
for you must remember that he was a soft man, city- 
bred, very like a Persian. 

"Let it be a man-child," he said in his turn, and his 
voice was as deep and holy as the voice of the muezzin 
calling the faithful to prayer. "Allah, give me a son, 
a little son, to complete my house, to give meaning and 
strength to my life; and to yours, blood of my soul!" 
he added, again kissing Bibi Halima s hands. "And 
you, beloved," he continued haltingly, for a great fear 



6 ALIEN SOULS 

was in his heart "but you, pearl tree of delight you 
must live to " 

"Silence, babble-mouth !" the old mother interrupted 
with a shriek. "Do not speak aloud with naked heart 
and tongue! You will bring ill luck on your house! 
Of course she will live. She is my daughter, blood 
of my blood and bone of my bone. She is of the 
hills." She laughed. "Seven sons have I borne to 
my lord, and still I live." And she pushed Ali-Khan 
toward the door, mumbling bitter words about foolish 
men of Persian manners sporting with the jinn of mis 
fortune. "Go now !" 

"I go," Ali-Khan said submissively; and he returned, 
half an hour later, bearing many gifts, silk and brace 
lets and sweetmeats and perfume from Ispahan. 

But Bibi Halima waved them aside with a short, 
impatient gesture. No, no, no, she did not want these 
man-made things. She wanted him to go to the hills 
to bring back to her the flowers of the hills, purple 
rhododendrons, soft-colored mimosas, and wild hibis 
cus smelling strongly of summer. 

"Go to the hills, O pilgrim," added the old woman 
as she saw his anxious face. "We women need no 
man around in the hour of trial. Ho!" she spat out 
her betel through blackened, stumpy teeth, "let women 
do women s business. Men in the house are as useless 
as barren spinsters, fit only to break the household 
pots. Go to the hills, my lord, and bring back the 
flowers of the hills. On your return, with the help 
of Allah, there will be a little son strengthening the 
house." 

And so he went to the hills, his rifle in his arm. 
Up to the high hills he went to pick flowers for his 
beloved, a song on his lips. 



FEUD 7 

"O Peacock, cry again," I heard his voice as he 
passed my house. 

Early the next morning Ebrahim Asif came to town. 
He also was of the Moustaffa-Khel, and a first cousin 
to Bibi Halima, and upon the blue-misted Salt Hills 
he was known as a brawler and a swashbuckler. A 
year before he had spoken to her of love, and had been 
refused. She had married Ali-Khan instead a few 
months later. 

Now he came to her house, and the old mother 
stood in the doorway. 

"Go away !" she shrilled ; for being an Afghan her 
self, she did not trust the Afghan, her sister s son. 

Ebrahim Asif laughed. 

"I have come to see my cousin and Ali-Khan. See, 
I have come bringing gifts." 

But still the old woman was suspicious. 

"Trust a snake before an Afghan," she replied. 
"Ali-Khan is away to the hills. Go, filthy spawn of 
much evil!" 

"Spawn of your sister s blood, you mean," he re 
plied banteringly; and the old woman laughed, for 
this was a jest after her own heart. "Let me in !" he 
continued. "Once your daughter blinded my soul with 
a glance of her eye. Once the fringe of her eyelids 
took me into captivity without ransom. But time and 
distance have set me free from the shackles of my 
love. It is forgotten. Let me bring these gifts to 
her." 

So the old woman let him into the zenana, where 
the windows were darkened to shut out the strong 
Northern sun. Bibi Halima gave him pleasant greet 
ing from where she lay on the couch in the corner 
of the room. 



8 ALIEN SOULS 

"Live forever, most excellent cousin !" he said, bow 
ing with clasped hands. "Live in the shadow of hap 
piness!" He took a step nearer. "I have brought 
you presents, dispenser of delights." 

Bibi Halima laughed, knowing of old Ebrahim 
Asif s facility for turning cunning words. She spoke 
to her mother. 

"Open the blinds, Mother, and let me see what my 
cousin has brought from the hills." 

The old woman drew up the blinds, and Bibi Halima 
looked. 

"See, see, Mother!" she exclaimed, "see the gifts 
[which my cousin has brought me !" 

"Aye, Daughter," the old woman replied, "gifts to 
adorn the house." And then she added, with the pride 
of age greedy for grandchildren, "but there will be a 
gift yet more fit to adorn this house when you lay a 
man-child into your lord s arms." 

Then the terrible rage of the Afghans rose sud 
denly in Ebrahim Asif s throat. He had come in 
peace, bearing gifts ; but when he heard that the woman 
;whom once he had loved would give birth to a child, 
the other man s child, he drew his cheray. 

A slashing, downward thrust, and he was out of the 
house and off to the hills again. 

The blow had struck Bibi Halima s temple with full 
force. She was half dead, but she forced back her 
ebbing strength because she wanted to hold a man- 
child in her arms before she died. 

"Stop your crying!" She turned to her mother, 
who had fallen into a moaning heap at the foot of the 
couch. "Allah el-Mumit God the Dispenser of Jus 
tice will not let me die before I have laid a son into 
my lord s arms. Call a doctor of the English." 



FEUD 9 

So the old woman came to my door, giving word 
to me of what had occurred. I hurried to the Street 
of the Mutton Butchers, where the English hakim 
lived, and together we went to the house of Bibi 
Halima. 

He examined her, dressed her wound, and said : 

"A child will be born, but the mother will assuredly 
die." 

The old woman broke into a storm of tears, but 
Bibi Halima silenced her with a gesture. 

"It is as God wills," she said, and the doctor mar 
veled at her vitality. "Let but the child be born first, 
and let that child be a man-child. The rest matters 
not. And you" she turned to me "and you, my 
friend, go to the hills and fetch me my lord." 

I bowed assent, and went to the door. 

"Wait!" Her voice was firm despite her loss of 
blood. "If on the way you should meet Ebrahim Asif, 
you must not kill him. Let him be safe against my 
husband s claiming." 

"I shall not touch him," I promised, though the 
sword at my side was whinnying in its scabbard like 
a Balkh stallion in the riot of young spring. 

All that day and the following night, making no 
halt, I traveled, crossing the Nadakshi Pass at the lift 
ing of dawn, and smelling the clean snow of the 
higher range the following noon. Here and there, 
from mountaineers and the Afghan Ameer s rowdy 
soldiers, I asked if aught had been seen of the two 
men, both being well known in the land. 

Yes, I asked for both men ; for while I was hurry 
ing to my friend with the message which was about 
my heart like a heel-rope of grief, it was also in my 
soul to keep track of Ebrahim Asif. Kill him I could 



io ALIEN SOULS 

not, because of the promise I had given to Bibi 
Halima; but perhaps I could reach Ali-Khan before 
the other had a chance to make the rock-perched vil 
lages of the Moustaffa-Khel, and thus comparative 
safety. 

It was late in the afternoon, with the lights of the 
camp-fires already twinkling in the gut of the Nadak- 
shi, when I heard the noise of tent-peg speaking to 
hammer-nose, and the squealing of pack-ponies, free 
of their burdens, rolling in the snow. It was a cara 
van of Bokhara tadjiks going south to Kabul with 
wool and salt and embroidered silks, and perhaps a 
golden bribe for the governor. 

They had halted for a day and a night to rest the 
sore feet of their animals, and the head-man gave 
me ready answer. 

"Yes, pilgrim," he said ; "two men passed here this 
day, both going in the same direction," and he pointed 
it out to me. "I did not know them, being myself a 
stranger in these parts; but the first was a courteous 
man who was singing as he walked. He gave us 
pleasant greeting, speaking in Persian, and dipped 
hands in our morning meal. Two hours later, travel 
ing on the trail of the first man, another man passed 
the kafilah, a hillman, with the manners of the hills, 
and the red lust of killing in his eyes, nosing the 
ground like a jackal. We did not speak to him, for 
we do not hold with hillmen and hill-feuds. We be 
peaceful men, trading into Kabul." 

It was clear to me that the hillman intended to 
forestall just fate by killing Ali-Khan before the lat 
ter had heard of what had befallen Bibi Halima. So 
I thanked the tadjik, and redoubled my speed; and 



FEUD ii 

late that evening I saw Ebrahim Asif around the bend 
of a stone spur in the higher Salt Range, walking 
carefully, using the shelter of each granite boulder, 
like a man afraid of breech-bolt snicking from am 
bush. For a mile I followed him, and he did not see 
me or hear me. He knew that his enemy was in front, 
and he did not look behind. Again the sword was 
whinnying at my side. For Ali-Khan was friend to 
me, and we of Afghanistan are loyal in living, loyal 
also in taking life. 

But there was my promise to Bibi Halima to keep 
Ebrahim Asif safe against her husband s claiming. 

And I kept him safe, quite safe, by Allah, the holder 
of the balance of right. For using a short cut which 
I knew, having once had a blood-feud in those very 
hills, I appeared suddenly in front of Ebrahim Asif, 
covering him with my rifle. 

He did not show fight, for no hillman will battle 
against impossible odds. Doubtless he thought me a 
robber ; and so, obeying my command, he dropped his 
rifle and his cheray, and he suffered me to bind his 
hands behind his back with my waistband. 

But when I spoke to him, when I pronounced the 
name of Ali-Khan and Bibi Halima, he turned as 
yellow as a dead man s bones. His knees shook. The 
fear of death came into his eyes, and also a great 
cunning; for these Moustaffa-Khel are gray wolves 
among wolves. 

"Walk ahead of me, son of Shaitan and of a she- 
jackal," I said, gently rubbing his heart with the muz 
zle of my rifle. "Together you and I shall visit Ali- 
Khan. Walk ahead of me, son of a swine-fed bazaar- 
woman." 



12 ALIEN SOULS 

He looked at me mockingly. 

"Bitter words," he said casually, "and they, too, will 
be washed out in blood." 

"A dead jackal does not bite," I said, and laughed ; 
"or do you think that perhaps Ali-Khan will show you 
mercy? Yes, yes," I added, still laughing, "he is a 
soft man, with the manners of a Persian. Assuredly 
he will show you mercy." 

"Yes," he replied, "perhaps he will show me mercy." 
Again the cunning look shone in his eyes, and a second 
later he broke into riotous, high-shrilling laughter. 

"Why the laughter?" I asked, astonished. 

"Because you shall behold the impossible." 

"What?" 

"When the impossible happens, it is seen," he an 
swered, using the Sufi saying; "for eyes and ears 
prove the existence of that which cannot exist: a 
stone swims in the water; an ape sings a Kabuli love- 
song " 

"Go on !" I interrupted him impatiently, rubbing his 
side with my rifle. 

So we walked along, and every few seconds he 
would break into mad laughter, and the look of cun 
ning would shine in his gray eyes. Suddenly he was 
quiet. Only he breathed noisily through his nostrils, 
and he rolled his head from side to side like a man 
who has taken too much blmng. And that also was 
strange, for, with his hands tied behind his back, he 
could not reach for his opium-box, and I could not 
make it out at all. 

A few minutes later we came in sight of Ali-Khan. 
He was sitting on a stone ledge near a bend of the 
road, flowers about him, carefully wrapped in moist, 
yellow moss so that they would keep fresh for the 



FEUD 13 

longing of his beloved, and singing his old song, "O 
Peacock, cry again " 

Then he saw us, and broke off. Astonishment was 
in his eyes, and he turned a little pale. 

"Ebrahim Asif," he stammered, "what is the mean 
ing of this?" And then to me, who was still cover 
ing the hillman with my rifle: "Take away your 
weapon from Ebrahim! He is blood-cousin to Bibi 
Halima, distant cousin to me." 

"Ho !" Ebrahim s shout cut in as sharp as the point 
of an Ulwar saber. "Ho ! ho ! ho !" he shouted again 
and again. Once more the mad, high-shrilling laugh 
ter, and then suddenly he broke into droning chant. 

I shivered a little, and so did Ali-Khan. We were 
both speechless. For it was the epic, impromptu 
chanting which bubbles to the lips of the Afghan hill- 
men in moments of too great emotion, the chanting 
which precedes madness, which in itself is madness 
the madness of the she-wolf, heavy with young, which 
has licked blood. 

"Listen to the song of Ebrahim Asif, the Sulay- 
mani, the Moustaffa-Khel," he droned, dancing in 
front of us with mincing steps, doubly grotesque be 
cause his hands were tied behind his back; "listen to 
the song of Ebrahim Asif, son of Abu Salih Musa, 
grandson of Abdullah el-Jayli, great-grandson of the 
Imam Hasan Abu Talib, great-great-grandson of Abd 
al-Muttalib al-Mahz! I have taken my rifle and my 
clteray, arid I have gone into the plains to kill. I de 
scended into the plains like a whirlwind of destruction, 
leaving behind me desolation and grief. Blood is on 
my hands, blood of feud justly taken, and therefore 
I praise Allah, Opener of the Locks of Hearts with 
His Name, and " 



i4 ALIEN SOULS 

The words died in his throat, and he threw himself 
on the ground, mouthing the dirt like a jackal hunting 
for a buried corpse. 

For a moment I stood aghast. Was the man really 
mad? 

But no; I remembered the cunning look which had 
crept into his eyes when he had said that perhaps 
Ali-Khan would show him mercy. He was playing 
at being mad. There was no other way of saving his 
life, for in the hills madmen are considered especially 
beloved by Allah, and thus sacrosanct. 

"Blood has reddened the palms of my hands," came 
the droning chant as Ebrahim Asif jumped up again 
from the ground and began again his whirling dance. 

"What has happened?" Ali-Khan whispered in my 
ear. "Has there been killing? Where? When?" 

Instead of replying, I pressed my rifle into his 
hands. 

"Shoot him!" I cried. 

He looked at me, utterly amazed. 

"Why should I shoot him?" 

Again the droning chant of Ebrahim rose, swelling 
and decreasing in turns, dying away in a thin, quavery 
tremolo, then bursting forth thick and palpable. 

"I give thanks to Allah the Just, the Withdrawer 
of the Veils of Hidden Things, the Raiser of the 
Flag of Beneficence! For He guided my footsteps! 
He led me into the plains. And there I took toll, red 
toll!" There came a shriek of mad laughter, then 
very softly he chanted : "Once a nightingale warbled 
in the villages of the Moustaffa-Khel, and now she is 
dead. The death-gongs are ringing in the city of the 
plains " 

"Shoot him," I shouted again to Ali-Khan, "or, by 



FEUD 15 

Allah, I myself will shoot him." And I picked up 
the rifle. 

But he put his hand across its muzzle. 

"Why, why?" he asked. "He is blood-cousin to 
Bibi Halima. Also does it seem that reason has de 
parted his mind. He is a madman, a man beloved by 
Allah. Shall I thus burden my soul with a double sin 
because of your bidding? Why should I shoot him?" 
he asked again. 

And then, before I found speech, the answer came, 
stark, crimson, in the hillman s mad chant : 

"Bibi Halima was her name, and she mated with 
a rat of the cities, a rat of an Herati speaking Persian. 
Now she is dead. I drew my cheray, and I struck. 
The blade is red with the blood of my loved one; the 
death-gongs are ringing " 

Then Ali-Khan understood. 

"Allah!" he shouted. And the long, lean Afghan 
knife leaped to his hand like a sentient being. "Al 
lah!" he said again, and a deep rattle was in his 
throat. 

The grief in the man s eyes was horrible to see. I 
put my hand on his arm. 

"She is not dead," I said. 

"Is that the truth?" he asked; then, pitifully, as I 
did not reply, "we have spoken together with naked 
hearts before this. Tell me, is the tale true ?" 

"The child will be born," I said, quoting the Eng 
lish doctor s words, "but Bibi Halima will assuredly 
die." 

And then and at the time it seemed to me that 
the great sorrow had snatched at the reins of his rea 
son Ali-Khan sheathed his knife, with a little dry 
metallic click of finality. 



16 ALIEN SOULS 

"It is even as Allah wills," he said, and he bowed 
his head. "Even as Allah wills/ he repeated. He 
turned toward the east, spread out his long, narrow 
hands, and continued with a low voice, speaking to 
himself, alone in the presence of God, as it were: 

"Against the blackness of the night, when it over- 
taketh me, I betake me for refuge to Allah, the lord 
of daybreak." 

There came a long silence, the hillman again roll 
ing on the ground, mouthing the dirt after the manner 
of jackals. 

Finally I spoke : 

"Kill him, my friend. Let us finish this business, 
so that we may return to the city." 

"Kill him?" he asked, and there was in his voice 
that which resembled laughter. "Kill a madman, a 
man beloved by Allah- the Just?" He walked over 
to Ebrahim Asif, touching him gently with the point 
of his shoe. "Kill a madman?" he repeated, and he 
smiled sweetly at the prostrate hillman, as a mother 
smiles at a prattling babe. 

"The man is not mad," I interrupted roughly; "he 
is playing at being mad." 

"No! no!" Ali-Khan said with an even voice as 
passionless as fate. "Assuredly the man is mad mad 
by the Forty-seven True Saints ! For who but a mad 
man would kill a woman? And so you, being my 
friend, will take this madman to the villages of the 
Moustaffa-Khel. See him safely home. For it is not 
good that harm should come to those whom Allah 
loves. Tell the head-man of the village, tell the priest, 
tell the elders, tell everybody, that there is no feud. 
Tell them that Ebrahim Asif can live out his life in 
peace. Also his sons, and the sons which the future 



FEUD 77 

will bring him. Safe they are in God s keeping be 
cause of their father s madness !" 

I drew him to one side, and whispered to him : 

"What is the meaning of this? What what " 

He interrupted me with a gesture, speaking close 
to my ear: 

"Do as I bid you for the sake of our friendship; 
for it is said that the mind of a friend is the well of 
trust, and the stope of confidence sinks therein and is 
no more seen." He was silent for a moment, then 
he continued in yet lower voice: "Hold him safe 
against my claiming? Assuredly him and his sons 
and " then suddenly, "O Allah, send me a man- 
child!" 

And he strode down the hill into the purple dusk, 
while I, turning over his last words in my mind, said 
to myself that he was a soft man indeed; but that 
there is also the softness of forged steel, which bends 
to the strength of the sword-arm, and which kills on 
the rebound. 

So, obeying my friend s command, I went to the 
villages of the Moustaffa-Khel. I delivered Ebrahim 
Asif safe into the hands of the jirgahs, giving them 
the message with which Ali-Khan had intrusted 
me. 

There was a little laughter, a little cutting banter 
hard to bear, and some talk of cowards, of city-bred 
Heratis turning the other cheek after the manner of 
the feringhees, of blind men wanting nothing but their 
eyes; but I kept my tongue safe between my teeth. 
For I remembered the softness of steel ; I remembered 
Ali-Khan s love for Bibi Halima; and thirdly I re 
membered that there is no love as deep as hate. 

Four days later I knocked at the door of Ali-Khan s 



i8 ALIEN SOULS 

house, and there was the moaning of women, and the 
ringing of the death-gong. 

Ali-Khan was alone in his room, smoking opium. 

"A son has been born me, praise Allah!" was his 
greeting. 

"Praise Allah and the Prophet and the Prophet s 
family, and peace and many blessings on them all!" 
I laid my left hand against his, palm to palm, and 
kissed him on both cheeks. 

There was no need to ask after Bibi Halima, for 
still from the inner rooms came the moaning of women 
and the ringing of the death-gong. But another ques 
tion was in my heart, and he must have read it. For 
he turned to me, smiling gently, and said : 

"Heart speaks naked to heart, and the head an 
swers for both. And I am an Herati and a soft man." 

There was peace in his eyes, at which I wondered, 
and he continued : 

"Once I spoke to you of feud. I said that an un 
finished feud is a useless thing, as useless as horns 
on a cat or flowers of air. For, if I kill my enemy, 
my enemy s son, knowing my name and race, will kill 
me, and thus through the many generations. A life 
for a life, and yet again a life for a life. And where, 
then, is the balancing of lives? Where, then, is the 
profit to me and mine? So I have made peace be 
tween Ebrahim Asif and myself, cunningly, declaring 
him a madman, beloved by Allah, thus sacrosanct. 
And I shall sell my house here, and take my little son 
and go north to Bokhara. I shall sit under the shadow 
of Russia, and I shall prosper exceedingly ; for I know 
Central Asia and the intrigues of Central Asia, and I 
shall sell my knowledge to the Russians. I shall be 
not without honor." 



FEUD 19 

"Do you, then, love the bear of the North that you 
are willing to serve him?" 

"Love is of the mind and not of the heart," he 
flung out a bare palm, "unless it be the love of 
woman. And Bibi Halima is dead." 

"Then why serve Russia?" For be it remembered 
that in those days I served the Ameer of Afghanistan, 
and that there was talk in the bazaars of a railway 
being built from Bokhara to Merv, within striking 
distance of Herat. 

Again he smiled. 

"Because I said that love is of the mind. What 
does me weal, that I love and serve. What does me 
harm, that I hate and fight. See? Years from now, 
if it be so written, my son, thanks to the honor which 
shall be mine under the shadow of Russia, will be a 
soldier of Russia in the north, in Bokhara. He will 
be trained after the manner of the North, and he will 
shoot as straight as a hawk s flight. He will be the 
pride of the regiment, and he will wear the little silver 
medal on a green ribbon which is given to the best 
marksman in the army. And one day the young sol 
dier, bearing a Russian name, even as will his father, 
will desert from his regiment for a week or a month, 
and the tale will be spread that he has gone north to 
Moscow because of his young blood s desire to see 
new sights and kiss strange women. But he will not 
have gone north at all. No, by the teeth of God and 
mine own honor! He will have gone south, to these 
very hills, and there will be no desire in his heart but 
the desire to kill. He will kill Ebrahim Asif and his 
sons may he have as many as there are hairs in my 
beard ! and also the women, at night, when they go 
to the brook to fetch water for the evening meal. He 



20 ALIEN SOULS 

will kill from ambush, wasting no shots, being a sol 
dier trained to war. Ahi! the carrion of the clan of 
Ebrahim Asif will feed the kites of the Salt Hills, 
and for many a day to come the jackals of the Nadak- 
shi will not feel the belly-pinch of hunger. And the 
family of Ebrahim Asif shall be no more, and thus will 
the feud be stanched, if God be willing. And then 
my son will return to the north, to Bokhara. And 
tracking him will be like tracking the mists of dawn 
to their home. For what is one soldier more or less 
in the great land of Russia, where there are thou 
sands and thousands and thousands of them? Also, 
will not the Government s protection be his, since I, 
his father, too, will be serving Russia not without 
honor?" 

He left the room and returned, a moment later, 
holding in his arms a little bundle of silk and linen. 

"Look," he said, baring carefully the head of the 
new-born infant. "See the eagle profile, the hooded 
brow, the creamy skin, the black, curly hair! An 
Afghan of Afghans! And see, he opens his right 
eye, has he not the eye of the killer?" 

The child twisted and gave a little cry. Ali-Khan 
took a long, lean knife from the wall, offering its hilt 
to his son. The tiny hand gripped it, while the blade, 
point down, shone in the rays of the afternoon sun. 



REPRISAL 

HE had kept his oath, Hadji Rahmet used to say, 
for wrong or for right. He would give to the latter 
word the emphasis of a slightly lowered voice. For, 
clear beyond the depths of even subconscious sophistry, 
he knew that he had done right; and the hills knew 
it and perhaps Dost AH, the Red Chief. 

The happening itself ? What did it matter? Noth 
ing mattered except the right and wrong of it. Be 
sides, the last word was not yet said; perhaps never 
would be. It was bigger than his life; bigger than 
Dost Ali s life; bigger than the hills themselves. 

"The hills!" he would repeat in a voice tinged and 
mellowed by distance, as it were. They seemed to 
play a personal part in the telling; neither in the back 
ground nor in the foreground, but hovering enigmat 
ical, fabulous in a way, naive. It had an o t dd effect 
his speaking of them, here, in the tainted, brooding 
heat of India; as if, by speaking of them, he was being 
carried out of a perplexing present into the austere 
simplicity of the Himalayas; as if, by leaving them, he 
had lost some of his own crushing simplicity. Yet, 
leaving them, he had not been actuated by that com 
plicated emotion called Fear in spite of Dost Ali s 
threats, in spite of the leaky tongues of the Kabul 
market place. 

The man did not understand fear. He had gone 
into the plains to find spiritual release from the 
memory of the thing. So he had visited the many 

21 



22 ALIEN SOULS 

shrines, true to the worship. Assiduously he had re 
peated the ninety-nine excellent attributes of Allah, and 
all his thought had been of forgetting, and of devotion 
to Him. He had wandered from the Khyber snows to 
the sour, sluggish swamps of Ceylon. He had talked 
with ascetics of many faiths in that land of many 
faiths. He had done bodily penance, gradually sub 
duing his physical Self. But his memory had re 
mained : an inky scrawl across his mind. 

"For memory," said the hadji, "is of the soul, and 
not of the dirt-clouted body. . . ." 

Also there were the tongues the tongues which can 
crush though they have no bones, the tongues of 
Afghan traders who drift through the passes into 
Hind. They would babble of the thing, back yonder 
in the glitter of the hills. . . . 

It started with the day on which Hadji Rahmet 
crossed the Red Chief s path for the first time. Per 
haps even though that is a question for ethnologists 
to decide it had started many centuries earlier, when 
one of the hadji s ancestors traveled from Persia 
through Seistan into Kabul, there to trade with smooth 
silk and flowered Kisbah cloth, to plant the damask 
roses of Ispahan, to give a soft philosophical twist to 
the harsh lessons of the Koran, and to break his heart 
here in the stony north; while the Red Chief s 
ancestor, driven out of Tatary by squat, flat-nosed 
warriors who recognized no God, who fought on horse 
back, and who tore like mastiffs at lumps of raw flesh 
and quaffed down curdled milk poured from human 
skulls, crossed into Afghanistan from the north. There 
he sat himself on a sugarloaf -shaped hill, built a rough 
castle, and put his descendants, straight down to Dost 



REPRISAL 23 

AH, on a pedestal to represent the power and arrogance 
of a race that will never grow old, that will never 
emerge from the sunlight of brazen freedom into the 
thrall and gloom of civilization. 

Symbolic? In a way. 

And that Hadji Rahmet should come into the Red 
Chief s life was also symbolic ^and necessary: like the 
shadow in a light, to emphasize its harsh brightness. 

Take the Red Chief up there in his stronghold, the 
Mahattah Ghurab, the Raven s Station, as the hill folk 
called it. 

Above him the jagged, bitter rocks of the higher 
mountains where scrub oak met pine and where pine 
to use the chief s words met the naked heart of Allah. 
Still higher up the hard-baked, shimmering snows of 
the Salt Range, hooded and grim like the gigantic eye 
brow of some heathen Pukhtu god, a god mourning 
the clank and riot of the days before the Arabs pushed 
into Central Asia and whipped the land into the faith 
of Islam alone there with his pride and his clan; clear 
away from the twitter and cackle of the city marts, 
from the turrets and bell-shaped domes of Kabul, from 
the strangling lash of the Ameer s decrees; sloughing 
his will and his passion as snakes cast their skin ; brook 
ing no master but himself and the black mountain 
thunder. 

At his feet a cuplike valley devoured by sunshine; 
farther up the slopes the lean mountain pasture, smooth 
and polished with the faint snow haze, and slashing 
through, straight as a blade, the caravan road which 
leads to Kabul ; the caravan road which, centuries ago, 
had echoed to the footsteps of Alexander s legions 
the caravan road which is as old as strife and older 
than peace. 



34 ALIEN SOULS 

Dost AH was a short, wide-shouldered man, with 
gray, ironic eyes, high cheek bones, his beard dyed red 
with henna juice. Like his ancestors, he had always 
greatly distinguished himself that s just how he would 
have considered it by the cheerful and methodical 
ferocity of his fighting. He was a man who paid his 
enemies with the crackle of steel and slaughtered cattle 
and the red flames licking over hut and byre; a man 
who had scarred the valley for a week s journey with 
torch and cord, and whose greatest trust greater than 
the fierce desert Prophet by whose name he gave oath 
was the Khyber sword, curved like the croup of a 
stallion. 

"I judge by the word of the hand and not by the 
word of the mouth," he put it in his own epic manner; 
and so he sat there on his mountain top and watched 
his breed increase, though they were daughters all but 
one. For his youngest child was a boy, Akbar Khan, 
seven years old, short and broad, with a tinge of red 
in his thick, curly hair and Dost Ali loved him. 

"Thou art a flower in the turban of my soul," he 
would say, picking up the lad and pressing him to his 
massive, fur-clad breast, "and my heart is a tasseled 
floorcloth for thy feet. Ho, thou, my hero!" And 
then father and son would run through the gray old 
rooms of the castle, playing like children, frightening 
the women over their cook pots, screaming and yelling 
and laughing. 

Dost Ali was easily moved to laughter laughter 
cold as the hill winds and he laughed loud and long 
when early one day, with the valley still waist-high in 
the clammy morning mist, he saw Hadji Rahmet 
wander down the slopes, driving a herd of sheep with 
a crooked staff, and followed by his little son. 



REPRISAL 25 

He had heard about the hadji a few days earlier. 

The blind mullah who ministered to the scant spirit 
ual wants of the Raven s Station had brought word of 
the stranger: the Kabuli merchant who, after his wife s 
death, had bidden farewell to the mosques and bazaars 
of the city and had come to live in the hills "to for 
get," as he had told the sneering mullah, "to live mated 
to the clean simplicity of the hills, to bring up my little 
son away from the noisy toil of the market places, 
away from the smoke and strife of the city streets, 
here in the hills where there is nobody but God." 

"God and the Red Chief !" the mullah had croaked 
through his broken, blackened teeth ; and then the hadji 
had spoken of the faith that was his. 

He had spoken of Allah, the God of Peace. 

"A new Allah by Allah !" the mullah had laughed 
as he repeated it to the Red Chief. 

Suddenly his laughter had keyed up to a high, senile 
scream. For he was a man of stout orthodoxy, to 
whom a freethinking Sufi was worse than Christian 
or Jew. "A new Allah ! A soft Allah ! A sickly Allah 
wrapped in sweating cotton ! An Allah who prates of 
forgiveness and other leprous innovations. And he 
that foul, swine-fed Kabuli said that he wanted his 
blood to bear witness to his faith! And I" again 
mirth gurgled through the mullah s fury "I told him 
that all the faith in the world will not mend his bones 
when we stone him as we should for a blasphemer 
and a heretic !" 

"God s curse on him !" Dost AH had chimed in and 
here he saw the man in the flesh, walking along easily 
enough for all his city-soft feet, his lean body swing 
ing with the long, tireless pull of a mountain pony, 
chanting as he walked : 



26 ALIEN SOULS 

"Peace upon Thee, Apostle of Allah, and the Mercy 
and the Blessings! Peace upon Thee, O Seal of the 
Prophets!" his voice rose and sank in turn, dying 
away in a thin, quavering tremolo, again bursting forth 
in palpable fervor, massive, unashamed, sublimely un- 
self -conscious amid the silence of the snows. 

"By the Three, the Seven, the Forty-seven True 
Saints ! By the horns of the Angel Israfil ! Teach me 
to see after ignorance !" 

The faith in his heart bubbled to his lips a lonely 
prayer, but a prayer which was to him a trumpet call 
of God s eternal laws, a rally clear around the world, 
a force in his heart to grip the everlasting meannesses 
of life and strife and smash them against the unchang 
ing portals of peace. 

"Peace !" He bit on the word. His lips savored it 
as a precious thing, then blew it free to lash the cool 
hill air with the sound of it. A light like a clear flame 
came into his eyes, illumining his face. 

It was not altogether that of an ascetic, in spite of 
the downward furrows graven deep by long hours of 
meditation. For the nose beaked out bold and aquiline, 
with flaring, nervous nostrils, speaking of courage 
unconscious, racial courage scotched, it is true, by 
his Persian ancestry, by breeding and training and de 
liberate modes of thought, but always there, dark- 
smoldering, ready to leap. 

Even Dost AH read the signs, though he had never 
had cause to learn the kind of mental stenography 
known as character reading and psycology, preferring 
to judge men by the work of their hands and the venom 
of their tongues. But he had known fighters fighters 
of many races and this 

"Peace, O Opener of the Locks of Grief!" droned 



REPRISAL 27 

the hadji s chant, with a trembling, throaty note of 
religious hysteria. 

He had left the hard grist of worldly ambition be 
hind him in Kabul, in the stench of bazaar and mart, 
in the burnished dome of the Chutter Mahal, the Au 
dience Hall, where once he had sat at the right hand 
of the governor, giving of his stored wisdom to help 
rule the turbulent Afghan nation. Wealth and honor 
and fame he had flung behind him, like a limp, worn- 
out turban cloth, to bring peace to this land of strife, 
from village to village. 

Peace! With the thought he forgot the grim, 
jagged rocks frowning above his head. He forgot the 
bastioned castle which blotched the snow blur of the 
slopes. He forgot the lank, rime-ringed pines which 
silhouetted against the sky like sentinels of ill omen. 
He even forgot the waddling sheep which gave him his 
simple living. 

They turned and stared at him out of their flat, 
stupid eyes, helpless without the point of the staff to 
marshal their feeding. 

"Peace!" came the word again a strange word 
here, and to Dost AH it seemed an affront an affront 
to the sweep of the hills, an affront to his own free 
breed, to the Raven s Station which had always gar 
nered strife and fed on strife. Yes, an affront, and 
the Red Chief stepped square into the hadji s path and 
shot forth his hatred and contempt in a few sharp- 
ringing words : "Ho ! Abuser of the Salt !" 

The deadly insult slashed clear through the other s 
voice and thoughts. He looked up. Automatically 
for there had been years of hot blood before the 
message of peace had come to him his hand leaped to 
his side, fingering for the blade. 



28 ALIEN SOULS 

Dost AH smiled at the gesture. Thank Allah, he 
thought, this babbling heretic was a man after all. He 
would not eat dirt. He would fight. 

"Good !" he breathed the word, and his own sword 
flashed free. But the next moment the hadji s hand 
dropped dropped like a wilted, useless thing ; and the 
Red Chief smiled again a different smile, slow, cruel 
and again he spoke. 

He chose his words carefully, each a killing insult, 
and he spoke in an even, passionless voice to let their 
venom trickle deep. Moreover, such is the Afghan 
code with its strange niceties of honor and prejudice, 
that unless he who is insulted respond immediately with 
the point of the dagger, the consciousness of moral 
rectitude rests with him who insults ; and so Dost AH 
was shocked, morally as well as ethically, when the 
hadji stood there and smiled; in spite of the fact that 
he had called him a beggar, a cut-off one, the son of a, 
burnt father, a foreigner, and a Yahudi ; though he had 
wished that his hands be withered and his fingers pal 
sied ; though he had compared him to the basest kinky- 
haired one that ever hammered tent peg, and to one 
cold of countenance ; though he had assured him "ay 
wall ahi!" the Red Chief reen forced the statement, "by 
the teeth of God and mine own honor !" that his head 
was as full of unclean thoughts as a Kabuli s coat is 
of lice, and that he himself, though an impatient man, 
would rather hunt for pimples on the back of a cock 
roach than for manliness and decency in the heart of 
such a one "as thou, O son of a hornless and espe 
cially illegitimate cow !" 

And still the hadji was silent, passive, his sword 
hand twisting the wooden beads of his rosary, only the 



REPRISAL 29 

slow red which mantled his cheeks telling that he had 
heard. 

Dost AH looked at him, open-eyed, puzzled. It was 
beyond his comprehension. If the other had thrown 
himself at his feet, imploring protection and mercy, or 
if he had run away, he would have understood. He 
would even have understood a sort of caustic placidity 
a silent, minatory contempt which would presently 
leap into flame. 

But why this man stood his ground. He stood 
his ground without righting, with no answering flow 
of abuse, and only a throaty "Peace ! Peace !" uttered 
automatically, like the response in a litany, followed by 
an admonition to the mountaineer not to be impatient 
"indeed thou seest through the whirling mists of 
passion, brother!" and finally a few stammering, 
ragged words drawn across his helplessness when the 
Red Chief burst into another flood of invective. 

Dost Ali was a simple man. He could not sift the 
hadji s heart. He did not see the waves of passion 
which were lapping beneath the other s smiling coun 
tenance and soft words. He did not understand how 
the hadji, slowly, painfully, had purged his heart of 
lust and hatred how even now, with the terrible in 
sults ringing in his consciousness, he was forcing his 
faith in God and Peace to buffet a road straight 
through the black wrath which was consuming him; 
how he was struggling with himself, finally doffing his 
worldly pride like a dirty garment. 

A coward ? Only in so far as he did not want real 
ities to brush him too close. And here reality was 
bulking big reality as expressed in the Red Chief s 
squat mightiness, in his screaming abuse, the half- 



30 ALIEN SOULS 

drawn sword flickering like a cresset of all the evil 
passions which he loathed and which he had set out to 
combat. 

"Peace, brother!" he said again. His voice was 
steady; and then, even in Dost Ali s slow-grinding 
mind, rose the conviction that this man this man who 
suffered the most deadly insults without fight or flight 
was not a coward. And his hatred grew apace. For 
he did not understand. 

A man who fought yes ! Also, a man who feared 
and fled. He had met both sorts, had handled both 
sorts. But here was a man who neither feared nor 
fled. It was a new experience to the mountaineer s 
naive brutality a new experience to crush which he 
would have to devise new means. What means ? He 
wondered. He jerked back his head as a racing 
stallion slugs above the bit. 

He stood there, squat, wide-shouldered, his red beard 
flopping in the wind like a bat wing, looking with 
puckered, puzzled eyes toward the east where the 
farther fog banks were melting and rolling into noth 
ingness and where a scarlet flush was shooting up in 
fantastic spikes as if the east could give answer. 

Should he kill outright? 

A sob of steel, a gurgle, blood caking on the ground 
he knew the tale of it, oft repeated and the fire of 
his hatred would be out; the heat thereof would be 
spent. 

But to what profit ? 

Where was the satisfaction in killing a man who 
did not resist, who did not answer steel with the song 
of steel, flash for flash, and strength for strength? It 
would leave the mystery still unsolved, the riddle un 
read, the grape impressed. The fact that the hadji had 



REPRISAL 31 

once lived and, living, had been as he had been, would 
remain like dregs; as salt as pain. Also, Dost Ali 
was a superstitious man. He could imagine the hadji s 
ghost, after the death of the body, squatting on a 
mountain top like a lean, red-necked vulture, looking 
down at the Raven s Station with flat, gray, indifferent 
eyes perhaps smiling, perhaps still croaking about 
Peace. 

Should he rob him? And what was there to rob? 
A muslin shirt, a rough khilat, a sheepskin coat, a pair 
of grass sandals not enough to satisfy the greed of 
the meanest dancing girl from the south. 

"Ho ! man of great feet and small head !" he began 
again, then was silent. For the other had dropped on 
his knees. 

"May the Lamp of Peace clear my path from hearth 
stone to byre," he was praying, oblivious of man-made 
passion and man-made words; and the Red Chief 
trembled with rage. What by the blood of God! 
what was the use of a talker when there were no listen 
ers ; when nobody heard except the lank pines and the 
cursed, blinking, waddling sheep, and ahi! the 
hadji s little son? 

There he stood, looking on with wondering eyes, 
munching a wheaten cake with the solemn satisfaction 
of childhood; strong, good-looking with his father s 
hawklike profile and deep-set eyes. 

The hadji was still droning his prayer of peace, and 
the Red Chief laughed. The answer? The answer to 
the riddle of his hatred? He had it. It lay in the 
strength of his arms, the clouting strength of his will. 
It was the hills way his own- way. 

He would pour the black brewage of fear down this 
stranger s throat till it choked him and he squealed for 



32 ALIEN SOULS 

mercy. He would drive him into the shadow of his 
love and cause him to whimper like a beaten dog like 
a dog well beaten with thorn sticks. 

This babbler of meekness had no fear of the Red 
Chief, no fear of the hills, but "Pray !" laughed Dost 
AH, "pray to me, a man of strife, O thou fool of peace! 
Fray, or thou shalt moan like the Bird of the Tamarisk 
which moaneth like the childless mother !" And with 
a quick gesture of his great hands he picked up the 
hadji s little son by the waist shawl. 

He held him high the child was rigid with fear 
he walked over to the edge of the precipice where, deep 
down, the lower mountains lay coiled and massive, 
offering their immense stillness to the fiery face of the 
sun. Still farther down the cataract of the Kabul River 
fluffed like some waxen, blatant tropical flower. 

"Father !" screamed the child. 

The hadji turned and at the moment of seeing he 
seemed to be struck blind. The second before, straight 
through the fervor of his prayers, he had vaguely real 
ized the world about him the peaks and the sunlight 
and the cold glitter of the snows. 

Now, suddenly, a nothing black. 

All that was bright and light and good seemed to 
have leaped back. There was nothing just a scream 
in the dark: "Father!" and the chief s harsh bellow 
as he swung the lad by the twisted waist shawl around 
his head, with that savage, hairy strength of his. 

A moment later vision returned to the hadji s eyes. 
He saw everything. Absurdly, incongruously, the first 
thing he saw, the first impressions which his eyes 
graved on his brain, were the details, the petty, con 
temptible details of inanimate nature : the eastern sky, 
serenely cloudless, running from milky white into gold- 



REPRISAL 33 

flecked crimson with a purple-nicked edge near the 
horizon s rim; farther south the sun rays racing in a 
river of fire and melting into the snows with a sort of 
rainbow-colored foam. He saw it. He understood it. 

Often, in after years, he would speak of it. He 
would say that his first glimpse of his son, helpless in 
the mountaineer s grip, at the verge of death, had 
seemed but another detail ; a strange detail ; a sudden, 
evil jest which he could not grasp. 

He used to say that even after he had begun to com 
prehend the reality of it his immediate thoughts had 
not been of his son s life, but of the waist shawl. He 
had remembered when he had bought it : in Kabul, in 
the Bazaar of the Silk Weavers. His son had liked 
the pattern and the bright blending of colors. So he 
had bought it, and 

Words had come to him. "Don t! Don t!" just 
those words : weak, meaningless, foolish. But he spoke 
them solemnly, as if he had found a powerful formula, 
and then his little son gave a frantic, straining kick. 

He jerked. His head shot down and his feet up, 
shifting the weight of the sturdy young body. The 
waist shawl snapped. Quite distinctly, for the fraction 
of a second, the hadji saw the broken silk strands. He 
saw their feathered ends ripping through the pattern, 
brushing up, then down in the wind which sucked from 
the precipice and his son s body fell away from the 
Red Chief s grip. 

It turned a somersault. It plunged into space. Came 
a dull thud, from far down. Silence. 

Dost AH stood motionless. By the Prophet, he had 
not willed this this thing. He had only meant to 
sport after the manner of the hills ; and he had taken a 
child s life like a snake or a Hindu. 



34 ALIEN SOULS 

He must atone, somehow, according to the code of 
the hills. 

But how? Blood money? Of course. But a life 
was a life, and a son was a son and there was his 
own little son running and playing through the gray 
rooms of the Raven s Station. 

The hadji had fallen on the ground, his hands 
stretched out, clutching the short-stemmed, tufted 
grass, his body jerking and twitching. 

"Hadji!" said the Red Chief. "Hadji!" and, as 
the other did not reply, did not hear, "by Allah, I did 
not will this !" 

He was silent. His lips twisted oddly, and had the 
hadji looked up he would have seen a tear in the moun 
taineer s beady, puckered eyes a tear which, strangely, 
seemed to lift what was abominable into something not 
altogether unworthy; to overshadow, somehow, the 
drab, cruel, sinister fact of the broken body down there 
by the cataract of the Kabul River. 

"Hadji!" the mountaineer called again. Then, as 
the other did not look up, did not reply, hardly seemed 
to breathe, he walked away, shrugging his broad 
shoulders. What was done was done, he thought, and 
he would pay blood money as the Koran demands it. 
Also, he would give the hadji a wife from among his 
own people, and there would yet be another little boy, 
with hawklike profile and deep-set eyes, to prate about 
Peace. 

And he took the road to the Raven s Station, where 
he gave a sound beating to the blind mullah who, ac 
cording to the Red Chief s simple logic, had been the 
cause of the whole trouble while the hadji was knit 
ting his riven soul to hold the pain in his heart. 



REPRISAL 35 

"Yes" the hadji would say years later as he was 
wandering through the sun-stained plains of India, 
from shrine to carved shrine, searching for release 
from the memory of the thing "yes, the Red Chief 
had prophesied right. Indeed I crept into the shadow 
of my fallen love, and I whimpered like a dog that has 
been beaten with thorn sticks!" And, with a flat, tor 
tured laugh, he would add that God seemed to have an 
swered his prayer for peace "/ had askerf for Peace, 
don t you see, and He sent me the final peace the 
peace of death, the peace of a hawk s claw and a snake s 
fang and a hill-bred s heart" 

An hour later, at the edge of the cataract, he found 
his son. Instinctively he folded his feet under his 
haunches, squatting by the side of the broken body, 
and his heart s remembrance followed the little crushed 
life followed it, followed it back through the narrow 
span of years, back to the day when the old Yusufzai 
nurse had come from the couch of his wife and had 
laid a tiny bundle into his arms "a son, my lord, may 
life be wide to him!" 

He remembered the first cry of that tiny, white, 
warm bundle. It had been like the morning cry of a 
wild bird. 

He remembered his son s last cry strangled, frantic 
"Father! Father!" drowned in the Red Chief s 
harsh bellow. He would never forget it. 

And the hadji sat there until the sun died in a sickly 
haze of coppery brown decayed, it seemed to him, 
like the sun on the Day of Judgment and the moon 
came up, stabbed on the outer horns of the world, dis 
passionate, calm, indifferent to the heart of man. 



36 ALIEN SOULS 

He sat there silent and stony, while some friendly 
hillmen carried his son s body away, decently wrapped 
in a white fringed death shroud, a kindly old woman s 
blue turquoise beads forced between the rigid little 
ringers so that the hand of AH, which had not protected 
his body during life, might protect his fluttering soul 
after death. 

He sat there till the wind came driving the dusk to 
ward the East; till the sky flushed with the green of 
the tropics, like a curved slab of thick, opaque jade; 
till the afternoon sun glared hot and golden ; till once 
more the mists of evening rose and coiled. The mists 
of the hills the mists in his soul ! They echoed this 
day to the scream and toll of the death gongs, and from 
his heart there beat up a sob which all his faith could 
not still. 

He sat the next night through and watched the hiv 
ing stars swarm and swirl past the horizon. He 
watched them die one by one. He watched the young 
sun shoot up, racing along the rim of the world in a 
sea of fire, with shafts of purple light that put out the 
paling moon. He watched a long streamer of north 
bound birds, wild parrots tumbled out of their south 
ern home by the moist sweep of the Punjab monsoon ; 
they flopped about the lank pines, screeching dismally, 
their motley finery of feather bedraggled with the snow 
chill of the Himalayas. 

A scout bird detached itself, flew down, then up, 
flanking the packed crowd of its comrades in long, 
graceful evolutions, finally leading them toward the 
Raven s Station, which etched the sky line, peaked and 
hooded, jeering like a face, extending its somber, 
scarred walls like a grim jest hewn out of stone, evilly 
infinite, like the very stronghold of the night and the 



REPRISAL 37 

hills, like a sooty smudge on the crimson and 
gold blaze of day and Hadji Rahmet s thoughts 
whirred on the parrot s wings: up to the Raven s 
Station. 

Up there was the patter of little hard feet tapping 
the stone flags ; a curly head, tinged with red ; a sturdy 
little nut-brown body: Akbar Khan, the Red Chief s 
son, blood of his blood and bone of his bone. 

Up there was childish laughter, as the old women 
whispered Persian fairy tales of the flea who tried 
to lighten the camel s load, of Oguun, the god of little 
babes, whose fingers and toes are made of sugar cane 
and whose heart is a monstrous ball of pink sweetmeat 
that was baked in far China. 

A child s laughter! 

The thought tore the hadji s heart, ragged, paining, 
like a dull knife. 

"O Lord !" the prayer came automatic and meaning 
less, "pardon and pity and pass over what Thou 
knowest, for Thou art the most dear and the most 
generous " He was silent. He bent his head as if 
listening. At his feet the cataract gurgled away to the 
darkness of the deep-cleft passes lap-lap-lap mock 
ing. 

"And then," the hadji would say afterward, "the 
dagger of grief pricked the bubble of my faith." And 
a great turmoil surged in his heart, beyond control, 
beyond prayer even; running into something molten, 
finally emerging into the solid fact of his hatred, his 
desire for revenge. 

It seemed to bring up from his heart and brain un 
expected, rather forgotten qualities, as a storm-whipped 
wave brings up mud and gravel from the ground bed 
of the shore. 



38 ALIEN SOULS 

That night Hadji Rahmet turned thief. He stole 
a tiny trotting bullock belonging to Ram Chander Dass, 
the Hindu who picked up a scant living by lending 
badly chipped silver rupees to the hillmen and, as the 
mullah said, by praying every night for the swag- 
bellied and bestial god of the Hindus, which same god 
is the guardian angel of Compound Interest. 

He stole the bullock. For he had decided to kill 
the Red Chief s son, and he knew that, while sharp 
eyes would detect a stranger wandering up the slopes 
to the Raven s Station, none would bother about a 
bullock in a land where bullocks mean money and 
food and clothes nor would sharp eyes, looking from 
above, see a man clinging to the bullock s shaggy belly, 
his hands buried in the thick pelt of the wabbly hump. 

His long, lean body tortured into a grotesque angle 
and now and then bumping against the sharp stones 
of the rock path, the hadji hung on precariously while 
the bullock lashed out right and left, lowering its head, 
snorting, bellowing, stamping, whisking its tufted tail, 
dancing about as if stung by a bramra beetle in its 
efforts to shake off the strange burden that clung to its 
nether side ; at last settling into a resigned, bovine trot 
and reaching the horses paddock which stretched be 
yond the Red Chief s sheep corral just after daybreak. 

Already, down in the valley, the night mists were 
twisting into baroque spirals, tearing into gauzelike 
arabesques that burned like the plumage of a gigantic 
peacock in every mysterious blend of green and purple 
and blue. 

Once in the paddock, the hadji dropped to the ground 
while the bullock trotted away to join its mates that 
were dipping their ungainly noses into a stone bin half 
buried beneath the crimson, feathery foliage of a squat 



REPRISAL 39 

manna bush. There was nobody about the inner court 
yards this time of early day. The watchmen were pac 
ing above, on the crenelated, winglike battlements that 
flushed out sharp and challenging under the rays of the 
young sun, farther on, where the sun had not yet pene 
trated, melting into the great pine woods that poured 
down the steep slopes and running together into a single 
sheet of purplish black, stippled white here and there 
with a sudden glisten of snow. 

The hadji stood still and listened. There was no 
sound except the occasional click-clank-click of a metal 
scabbard tip dragged along the stones of the battle 
ments or the creaking of a grounded rifle butt. 

The watchmen were looking across the valley. It 
was there that, a week earlier, the Red Chief had lifted 
the slate-blue, mottled Kabuli stallion belonging to 
Jehan Tugluk Khan, the great naib of the Uzbek Khel ; 
it was thence that the Uzbek Lances might pour toward 
the Raven s Station to take toll. The sentinels had seen 
the bullock dance up the paddock, stamping and lash 
ing and roaring. But what harm was there in a bullock, 
mad with spring fever? 

Hadji Rahmet looked about him. To the left, sep 
arated from the paddock by a stone wall, was a garden, 
transplanted painfully tree for tree and shrub for shrub 
from the Persian lowlands, and challenging the eternal 
snows in an incongruous, stunted, scraggly maze of 
crotons and mangoes, teak and Mellingtonia, poin- 
settias and begonia creepers all frozen, homesick, out 
of place. The Red Chief had slaughtered a hundred 
head of cattle and sold their hides to pay for the exotic 
plants on the day when his little son had first repeated 
after him the words of the Pukhtunwali, the ancient 
Afghan code of honor and conduct : "As to him who 



40 ALIEN SOULS 

does me harm, may I be permitted a full measure of 
revenge. May I cause his hands to drop away, and 
his feet. May his life pass into the dark like a sheet 
of foam. . . ." 

Beyond the garden, a little higher up, stretched the 
gray stone stables of the blooded horses. The hadji 
could hear the strangely human cry of a mare heavy 
with foal, a stallion s answering whinny. 

He crossed the paddock toward the castle itself. It 
towered in massive outlines over a hundred feet high, 
built of rough granite and shiny quartz blocks set in 
concrete, swinging out in a great semicircle, its flanks 
resting upon the naked rock of the hills. Directly in 
front of him he saw a door, doubtless stolen genera 
tions ago during a raid into India. For it was made of 
a single, solid, age-darkened, adz-hewn teak slab, with 
dowels that fitted into a fretted ivory frame. No Af 
ghan hand clumsy except with martingale and tem 
pered steel had carved this door. No Afghan hand 
had fashioned the bossed, jewel-crusted silver plaque 
set in the center. But it was Afghan carelessness which 
had let the door warp, which had caused the delicate 
bayonet lock to crack away from the wood, leaving 
room for a narrow, nervous hand to slip inside and 
finger the bolt. 

The hadji sucked in his breath. His fingers moved 
noiselessly. Another short jerk and the bolt would 
slide from its groove 

He stood quite still, his heart beating like a hammer. 

Faint, from the other side of the door, came a rustle 
of silken garments, the noise of bare feet pattering 
away. The zenana, the women s quarter, doubtless, he 
thought ; and there would be an old nurse about, with 
sharp ears and shrill, lusty tongue. 



REPRISAL 41 

He shut his teeth with a little dry click. His heart 
felt swollen, as if he had washed it in brackish water, 
and he asked God it seemed a personal issue between 
him and God if he should be cheated of his revenge 
because an old woman, thin of sleep, was rummaging 
about the zenana in search of charcoal and hubble- 
bubble and Latakia tobacco spiced with rose water and 
grains of musk. 

And, steadily, as he waited, his finger immobile on 
the bolt of the door, undecided what to do, the sun was 
rising, striking the jagged cliffs with dusted gold, 
tumbling broken-rayed into the courtyard and drink 
ing the newly thawed snow. Already the east was 
flushing with pink and orange as the mists drifted 
through the valley, shearing a glittering crimson slice 
from the morning sun. Already, looking nervously 
over his shoulder, he saw down the path one of the Red 
Chief s peasants carrying a rough, iron-tipped milking 
yoke across his shoulders. Still he stood, undecided, 
ears and eyes tense. 

The thousand noises of the waking day were about 
him. Somewhere a tiny koel bird was gurgling and 
twittering. A little furry bat cheeped dismally. A pea 
cock-blue butterfly flopped quick quick as the shadow 
of a leaf through summer dusk. A mousing owl rus 
tled in the byre thatch. 

The stallions whinnied. There was a metallic buzz 
ing of flies around a gnarled siris tree. 

Then, through the drowsy canticle of waking day, 
straight through the cheeping and rustling and whinny 
ing and buzzing, the hadji heard another sound a cry 
faint, then louder, decreasing, then stabbing out 
sharp and distinct : "Father !" 

A human cry, calling for human help; rising to an 



42 ALIEN SOULS 

intolerable note of appeal, half choked, accompanied 
by a rattling and crackling of steel, a crunching and 
stamping and snorting curious, flat, dragging noise 
and for a moment the hadji s heart was as still as freez 
ing water. "Father !" came the cry again, and again : 

"Fa " cut off in mid-air. Like his son s last 

cry, the cry of a dead soul trying to span the gulf of 
consciousness to the living heart! 

Then once more the snorting and stamping, the steely 
jar, coming from the stables of the blooded horses. 

The hadji gulped his fear and looked. 

Beyond the stunted garden he saw a little curly, red- 
tinged bullethead peep above the wall, a small brown 
leg stretching up, the heel, helpless, foolish, trying to 
find hold on the smooth stone coping. Once more the 
cry, agonized the little head jerking, the little heel 
slipping a soft thud . . . and the hadji, the hair 
on his neck bristling as though Death had whispered 
in his ear, ran across courtyard and garden. He 
cleared the stone wall at a jump. 

Inside, at the open door of the stables, he saw the 
Red Chief s son, a small, huddled bundle, the neck 
strangely twisted, the hands grasped clawlike about 
the left front fetlock of a slate-blue, mottled stallion. 
It was clear to the hadji what had happened. 

The boy had sneaked out, very early, to take a look 
at the Kabuli stallion which his father had lifted from 
Jehan Tugluk Khan. He had tried to undo the steel 
chain by which the horse was fastened. The animal 
had become frightened, had reared and plunged and 
kicked ; the boy had become entangled in the steel halter, 
had tried to jerk himself free; the stallion had become 
more frightened than ever. 

"Patience, little Moslem. Patience, little brother!" 



REPRISAL 43 

said the hadji. He approached the stallion sidewise, 
hand held high and open to show that he carried neither 
bit nor martingale, soothing with soft voice, then with 
cunning palm, rubbing the high, peaked withers, the 
soft, quivering muzzle, the tufted ears, leaning for 
ward and blowing warm into the dilated nostrils, finally 
loosing the steel halter chain. 

The headstall dropped. The stallion jumped back, 
and the little boy fell on the ground, flopping gro 
tesquely and something reached out and touched the 
hadji s soul, leaving the chill of an undescribable un 
easiness. 

He bent to pick the boy up. The little body lay still, 
lifeless. 

He looked. He saw a blue mark across the lad s 
windpipe where the steel chain had pressed and he 
thought that his own son was dead, and that dead was 
the Red Chief s son. He thought that the hand of man 
had killed the former, the hand of God the latter, thus 
evening the score. 

But was the score even? 

For a full minute he considered. 

His mind resisted from the spontaneous passivity 
bred by long-continued meditations on Peace. But his 
hand surrendered to the brain s subconscious, driving 1 
will. His hand acted. 

He drew the dagger from the waist shawl. He cut 
across the blue mark which the steel chain had graved 
on the boy s windpipe, obliterating it with torn flesh 
and a rush of blood. He left the dagger sticking in 
the wound. His name was cut in the ebony hilt. The 
Red Chief would find, and read, and yes ! thus the 
score would be even! 

The hadji never knew how he reached safety. He 



54 ALIEN SOULS 

had a vague memory of a sentinel challenging him, of 
a bullet whistling above his head, of how he went down 
the path scudding on his belly like a jackal to the reek 
of carrion. He remembered how, as he reached the 
valley, the western tower of the Raven s Station seemed 
like a spire away on the world s rim: a spire of hope 
and lost hope. He remembered the sudden gusts of 
snow coming down like hissing spears, with the moon 
reeling above him through the clouds like a great, 
blinding ball of light and with a lonely southern peak 
pointing at the mute stars like a gigantic icicle, frozen, 
austere, desolate. 

He remembered vaguely how he traveled day and 
night, day and night, and it was only gradually, slowly, 
as his mind jerked free from fleshly thrall and buffeted 
its road back through the mists of passion to God s 
Peace, that there came to him knowledge of why he 
was fleeing from that thing in the glitter of the hills as 
from a thing accursed. 

It was not fear of the Red Chief. Nor was it re 
morse that he had mutilated the dead body. For the 
hadji was an Afghan, and there was no worth nor 
dignity to him in a lifeless thing. 

What weighed on his soul, like a sodden blanket, was 
the doubt of what he would have done had he found 
the Red Chief s son alive. 

He had gone to the Raven s Station to kill. But 
would he have killed? Would he have broken God s 
covenant of Peace and, killing, would he have done 
right or wrong? 

The doubt was on his soul like a stinging brand ; and 
so the hadji took stick and wooden bowl and lived on 
alms and went through the scorched Indian plains, 



REPRISAL 45 

( 

from shrine to shrine, seeking release from doubt, 
release from memory. 

He did bodily penance, gradually subduing his phys 
ical Self. He submitted to the ordeal of fire, walking 
barefoot through the white-hot charcoal, uncovering 
his shaven head to the burning fire bath. And he felt 
not the pain of the body. Only his soul trembled to the 
whip of doubt. 

Then he met a Holy Man from Gujrat who told him 
that to clear his vision and fatten the glebe of under- 
stanfling he must do penance with his head hanging 
downward. True, the other was a Hindu infidel whose 
gods were a monkey and a flower. But he himself was 
a Sufi, an esoteric Moslem, taking the best of all creeds 
and despising none, and he did as the fakir told him. 

He swung with his head to the ground and shut his 
eyes. When he opened them again he saw all upside 
down, and the sight was marvelous beyond words. THe 
blue hills had lost their struggling height and were a 
deep, swallowing, mysterious void. Against them the 
sky stoojd out, bold, sharp, intense, immeasurably dis 
tant; and the fringe of clouds at the base of the sky 
seemed a lake of molten amber with billows of tossing 
sacrificial fire. 

He gazed. He gazed himself into stupefaction. But 
his memory remained: an inky scrawl across his soul. 

"For memory," said the hadji, "is not of the body, 
but of the soul!" 



THE HOME-COMING 

YAR KHAN was off to his own country in the Month 
of Pilgrimages. He broke the long journey at Bok 
hara, to buy a horse for the trip South, to exchange 
his Egyptian money for a rupee draft on a Hindu 
banker in Afghanistan, and to buy sweets and silks 
for the many cousins in his native village. 

He had left there sixteen years before, a child of 
seven, when his father, a poor man, but eager for 
gain, and sensing no chance for barter and profit in 
the crumbling basalt ridges of the foot-hills, had gone 
West to Cairo. There he and his father the mother 
had died in giving him birth had lived all these years ; 
all these years he had spent in that city of smoky 
purple and dull orange, but never had he been of 
Cairo. The tang of the home land had not left him; 
always his heart had called back to the sweep and 
snow of the hills, and he had fed his love with gossa 
mer memories and with the brave tales which his 
father, Ali Khan, told him when the homesickness was 
in his nostrils and when the bazaar gold of Cairo 
seemed gray and useless dross. 

Of gold there had come plenty. Ali Khan had pros 
pered, and in his tight little shop in the Gamalyieh, the 
Quarter of the Camel-Drivers, he had held his own 
with the Red Sea traders who meet there, and cheat 
and fight and give one another the full-flavored abuse 

of near-by Asia. 

46 



THE HOME-COMING 47 

Yar Khan had lived the haphazard life of Eastern 
childhood, with no lessons but those of the crowded, 
crooked streets and an occasional word of prosy Ko 
ranic wisdom from some graybeard among his father s 
customers. When he had reached his fifteenth year, 
manhood had come sudden and a little cruel as it 
comes to Asians. On that day, his father had taken 
him into the shop, and, with a great gesture of his lean 
arms, had pointed at the dusty confusion of his stock- 
in-trade; at the mattings full of yellow Persian to 
bacco, the pipe bowls of red clay, the palm-leaf bags 
containing coffee and coarse brown sugar, the flat green 
boxes filled with arsenic and rhubarb and antimony 
and tafl and sal-ammoniac. 

"He of great head becomes a chief, and he of great 
feet a shepherd," Ali Khan had said, ridiculing Fate 
after the manner of the hill-bred. "Thou art blood of 
my blood. From this day on, thou wilt be a trader, 
and thou wilt prosper. Gold will come to thy hands 
unasked, like a courtezan." 

Ali Khan had been right. Together, father and son 
had prospered. They had heaped gold on clinking 
gold, and of gold, too, had been the father s endless 
talk, praising the cold metal at yawning length, dwell 
ing, as it were, on the outer husk of things ; and when 
Yar Khan s softer mind rebelled at the hard philos 
ophy Ali Khan would laugh and say: "Thou art 
right, little son. Gold is the breath of a thief. Gold 
is a djinn. Gold is an infidel sect. But "with a 
shrewd wink "give gold to a mangy dog and the 
people will call him Sir Dog. For gold is strength !" 

It was only in the evenings, when they had put up 
the heavy wooden shutters of their shop and were re 
turning to their tiny whitewashed living-house in the 



48 ALIEN SOULS 

Suk-en-Nahassim, that often something like a veil of 
discontent would fall over the older man s shrill greed. 

"Gold buys this and that and this," he would say, 
in a hushed voice, pointing at some rich Pasha s silent, 
extravagant house, with its projecting cornices, its 
bulbous balconies of fretted woodwork supported by 
gigantic corbels and brackets, and the dim oil lamp 
glimmering above the carved gate "gold buys this 
and no more !" and when a woman of the Egyptians 
a woman swathed from head to foot, with only the 
eyes showing crossed his path, he would cry, "They 
do not wear veils, at home, in the hills." 

Then, quite suddenly, he would break into harsh 
laughter and add, "But veils cost gold, Yar Khan, and 
we sell veils . . . thou and I in the Gamalyieh!" 

Yar Khan understood that his father was homesick. 
But when he begged him to return to the hills Ali 
Khan would reply with the proverb which says that 
the cock leaves home for four days only and returns 
a peacock. He would add, with a crooked smile : "Of 
what use the peacock s green tail on the dung-hills ? Of 
what use the gold of Egypt on the barren rocks?" 
and then again the talk would be of seasons and of 
the gold which comes with the shifting seasons swing. 

But Yar Khan would not understand why his father 
did not return to the hills, why he preferred to live in 
Cairo between the dusty shop and the tiny white 
washed living-house up and down, up and down, like 
a buffalo putting his shaggy back to the water-wheel 
heavy and slow and blind. He only knew that his 
father was eating out his heart with longing for the 
chill, dark pines; and his own homesickness though 
his memories were vague would be upon his shoulder 
like a stinging brand. 



THE HOME-COMING 49 

Now his father was dead. There was no lack of 
gold; and once more the thought of home had come 
to Yar Khan like a sudden inrush of light after a 
long, leaden, unlifting day. He was off to his own 
country in the Month of Pilgrimages. 

The old priest whom he met at Bokhara mumbling 
his prayers and clicking his rosary beads in front of 
the little pink mosque of Bala-i-Hava told him that 
there was a certain significance to the date told him, 
too, after the thin, pretentious manner of Moslem hier 
archy, that he did not know if the omen be bad or 
good "For," he added, "there is no power nor 
strength save in Allah the Most High!" and Yar 
Khan, who had lost most of his respect for holy men 
in the blue, slippery mud of the Nile, snapped his 
fingers with gentle derision, threw the whining gray- 
beard a handful of chipped copper coins, and turned 
to the bazaars to buy presents for his cousins. 

He bought and bought embroidered silks from 
Khiva and from far Moscow, pink and green sweet 
meats from across the Chinese border, and Persian 
silver filigree for the young girls. He paid royally, 
without bargaining; for to-day he was master buy 
ing, not selling and the smooth touch of the gold 
pieces as he took them from his twisted waistband and 
clinked them down on the counter was pleasant. It 
was like prophecy : of conquest and, in a way, of free 
dom. He swung the furry goat-skin bag which held 
his purchases over his supple shoulders and turned 
toward the open market-place to buy a horse. 

Rapidly he passed through the bunched crowds 
crowds of all Asia solemn, impassive-looking Bok- 
harans, gently ambling along on gayly caparisoned 
mules; straight-backed gipsies, swaggering with the 



50 ALIEN SOULS 

beggars arrogance of their race; melancholy Turko 
mans in immense fur-caps and plaited duffle coats; 
Greeks, cunning-faced and sleek and odiously hand 
some; green-turbaned, wide-stepping shareefs, the 
aristocracy of Islam ; anxious-eyed, tawdry Armenians ; 
Sarts bristling with weapons and impudence ; here and 
there a bearded official of the Ameer s household, with 
his air of steely assurance, superb self-satisfaction 
hooded under his sharply curved eyelids and once in 
a while a woman, in white from head to foot, a restful 
relief to the blaze of colors all around. 

Yar Khan looked, but he felt no desire to linger. 
For him there was no fragrance in the blossom-bur 
dened gardens, no music in the song of the koil bird, 
no beckoning in the life of the streets motley and 
shrill and busy with shaggy Northern dromedaries 
dragging along their loads and looming against the 
sky-line like a gigantic scrawl of Asian handwriting, 
with the hundreds of tiny donkeys tripping daintily 
under their burdens of charcoal and fiery-colored vege 
tables, with numbers of two-wheeled arbas creaking 
in their heavy joints with all the utter, riotous mean 
ing of trade and barter and gold. He bought a horse, 
a dun stallion with high, peaked withers, and rode out 
of the Southern Gate without turning around. Down 
the long south trail he rode toward the little steel- 
gray village perched on a flat, circular mountain top 
which is called The Hoof of the Wild Goat in the 
Afghan tongue. 

He pulled into Balkh, white as a leper with the 
dust of the road, traded his stallion for a lean racing 
camel, which had a profusion of blue ribbons plaited 
into the bridle as protection against the djinns and 
ghouls of the desert a superstition of his native land 



THE HOME-COMING 51 

at which he smiled, quite without malice filled his 
saddle-bags with slabs of grayish wheaten bread and 
with little hard, golden apricots, and was off again, 
crossing the Great River at the shock of dawn. He 
watched it for a long time; for, springing up in the 
Hindu Kush, storming through the granite gorges of 
the lower ranges, it was to him a messenger of the 
home he had dreamt of and longed for these many 
years. So he watched the impetuous, green-blue flood 
bearing down to the soft Persian lowlands with a 
shout and a roar, dashing against the bank as though 
trying to sweep it away bodily, then swirling by in 
two foaming streams on either side. And from the 
cool waters there rose a flavor of that utter, sharp 
freedom which was to him the breath, the reason, 
the soul of the hills as he remembered them. 

Yar Khan gave a deep, throaty laugh of sheer joy. 
"Home and the salt of the home winds !" he thought, 
and he thought the words in the Afghan tongue, the 
harsh tongue of his childhood which he had nearly 
forgotten in the gliding, purring gutturals of the Cairo 
streets. Impatience overtook him. 

"Home, lean daughter of unthinkable begetting!" 
he shouted at the snarling camel; he tickled its soft 
muzzle with the point of his dagger, urging it on to 
greater speed ; and on the fifteenth day out of Bokhara, 
the thirtieth out of Cairo, he found himself in the 
valley below The Hoof of the Wild Goat. 

He opened wide his lungs and filled them with the 
snow-sharp air, as though to cleanse himself from the 
shackling abominations of that far Egypt where he 
had lived the years of his youth. Already night had 
dropped down from the higher peaks ; and in the pur 
ple depths of the cloudless sky hung a froth of stars 



52 ALIEN SOULS 

that sparkled with the cold-white gleam of diamonds. 

He jerked the camel to its knees and dismounted. 
But that night he did not stop to make camp, nor did 
he sit long at his meal. 

For above him, like a dream of freedom, stretched 
the rock-perched village of his birth, and every minute 
spent here in the valley was like another wasted year. 
So he sat down, picked up a handful of mulberries 
and ate them; and when a shaggy, skulking Afridi 
came wandering into the valley, a wire-bound Snider 
in his arms, and doubtless out to take a late shot at a 
blood-enemy, Yar Khan stopped him with a shouted 
friendly greeting and offered him the camel as a pres 
ent. For he was anxious to tread the jagged rocks 
of The Hoof of the Wild Goat, and he knew that no 
plains-bred animal could find foothold on the narrow, 
winding path which led to the mountain top. Often 
his father had described the path to him, every foot 
of it too, savoring every foot of it in the telling. 

The price of the camel? "Masha, illah!" he 
thought, "my father bartered the years of his man 
hood for a waistbandful of coined gold; let me then 
throw away a handful for a minute of home!" and 
he put the bridle in the Afridi s eager hand, crooking 
two fingers in sign of a free present. 

"Manda na bash May your feet never be weary !" 
the grateful Afridi shouted after Yar Khan, who was 
already speeding up the dark path, the heavy goat 
skin bag punctuating each step, the joy in his heart as 
keen as a new-ground sword. 

The night was a pall of deep brown, and the road 
twisted and dipped and turned. But he walked along 
steadily and sure-footed, though he had not seen the 
hills, except in dreams, since he was a lisping babe 



THE HOME-COMING 53 

riding astride his nurse s stout hips. It seemed to him 
as if the flame in his heart was lighting up the un 
charted night, as if the thought of home was serving 
him for an unerring beacon among the slippery timber- 
falls and the hidden, crumbling rock-slides; on he 
pushed, toward the higher peaks cooled with the wail 
ing Northern thunder, and, just before the break of 
day, turning a massive rock crowned with a stunted 
lone pine, he came upon the village which huddled, 
dwarfed and shapeless, among the jagged granite 
bowlders stretching on toward the North like a 
smudge of sooty gray below the glimmering band of 
the eternal snows. 

"O Allah!" he mumbled, softly. "O Thou Raiser 
of the flags of increase to those who persevere in 
thanking Thee I praise Thee and I bless and salute 
our Lord Mohammed, the excelling in dignity!" and 
again, with rising, high-pitched voice, "O Allah!" 
letting loose all his long-throttled love and longing in 
one great cry. 

Then quite suddenly he was silent. He drew back 
a step. He listened intently. There was a faint stir 
of dry leaves, a soft crackling of steel and, the next 
moment, a squat form robed in sheep-skins loomed 
up from a clump of thorn-trees; a wide-mouthed 
smooth-bore was pressed against Yar Khan s chest, 
and a raucous voice bade him state his name, the names 
of his father and grandfather, his race, his clan, his 
destination and his reasons for coming by night, un 
asked and unheralded, to The Hoof of the Wild Goat. 

"Speak quick, cow maiming- jackal spawn!" com 
manded the Afghan, with the ready abuse of the hills, 
and Yar Khan laughed delightedly. This was what 
he had expected, what he had hoped for, this greeting 



54 ALIEN SOULS 

out of the wilderness ; this savage, free call of his own 
people, his own blood cousin and cousin again 
through frequent intermarriage. 

Smiling, he looked at the face of his cousin for 
cousin he must be which was like a bearded smear 
of gold-flecked red in the dim light of the rising sun. 
He stated whence he came and why and whereto, 
winding up by saying, "I am Yar Khan, the son of 
Ali Khan, grandson of Abderrahman Khan the 
Afghan the Usbek-Khel," and, unknown to himself, 
a note of savage pride had crept into the telling of 
name and pedigree. 

The other eyed him suspiciously, undecided what 
to do. He had heard of Ali Khan, the man who had 
left the hills and who had gone South, in search of 
gold. And this he clutched his rifle with steady 
hands this smooth-faced, leaky-tongued stranger 
claimed to be his son. But perhaps this night-prowler 
was a spy sent by the Governor of Kabul to look into 
the matter of certain bullocks that had strayed away 
from the valley. Still, Ali Khan had had a son 
and 

Suddenly he gave a shrill, kitelike whistle, and, a 
moment later, a second sentinel dropped from a rock 
crest. Came a whispered colloquy between the two 
villagers, another rigorous cross-examination as to 
Yar Khan s pedigree and antecedents, and finally the 
new-comer declared himself satisfied. 

He walked up to Yar Khan, his right hand raised 
high in sign of peace. 

"I am Jehan Hydar," he said, "the son of Shujah 
Ahmet, and I give thee peace " and with a slight 
laugh he added, "O Egyptian !" 

A great rage rose in Yar Khan s throat. Often, 



THE HOME-COMING 55 

in the past, people had called him Egyptian. There 
was that gray-haired Englishwoman who had come to 
his father s shop, year after year during the cool sea 
son, in search of scarabs and damaskeened brass; al 
ways had she addressed him as "my little Egyptian," 
and he had not minded it. But this was different, 
somehow. Rash, bitter words crowded on his lips, but 
he suppressed them. He was home home! and he 
would not mar the first day with the whish and crackle 
of naked steel. Better far to turn away ridicule with 
a clear, true word. 

"I am not an Egyptian, Jehan Hydar," he replied, 
"but an Afghan and cousin to thee cousin to all 
this !" making a great gesture which cut through the 
still air like a dramatic shadow and which took in the 
frowning gray hills, the huddled squat houses, and 
the deep-cleft valley at his feet; and as the other 
grudgingly admitted the relationship, he swung his 
goatskin bag from his shoulders, opened it, and groped 
among the presents he had bought in the bazaars of 
Bokhara. For his heart seemed suddenly filled to 
overflowing with the fine, impulsive generosity of 
youth. 

"Here, cousin mine," he laughed, "see what I have 
brought thee from " 

"Peace, peace!" interrupted the other, impatiently; 
"the night is for the sleep of the sleepers, not for the 
babble of the babblers," and, motioning Yar Khan to 
follow, he led him to a low stone hut and bade him 
enter. 

In the middle of the room flickered a charcoal fire 
in an open brazier, and there was no furniture except 
a water jar and an earthen platform covered with 
coarse rugs and sheepskins. Jehan Hydar pointed to 



56 ALIEN SOULS 

it without a word and left the hut, the tip of his steel 
scabbard bumping smartly against the hard ground. 

Such was the home-coming of Yar Khan, the son 
of Ali Khan; and, as he stretched himself on the 
earthen platform and gathered the covers about him, 
he was conscious of a faint flavor of disappointment 
[They had accepted him, those two, but there had been 
no joy in the accepting, no generosity, no quick, warm 
hearted friendship; and they were his cousins, blood 
of his blood and bone of his bone and he had longed 
for them so ! 

For their sake he had left Cairo and the smooth 
gold of Cairo ; for their sake he had traveled the many 
miles, riding till his spurs were red and his hands 
galled with the pull of the reins and his saddle broken 
across the tree. 

And they Jehan Hydar and the other? Why, 
they had accepted him as a man accepts salt to his 
meat, and they had sneered a little. 

He drew himself up on his elbow and looked out 
of the tiny window which was set low into the wall. 
A stark black pine stood spectrally in the haggard, 
indifferent light of the young day. He shivered. 

But again the impulsive magnanimity of youth 
came to his rescue, and he said to himself that these 
men were his cousins, hill-bred, their whole life a 
rough fact reduced to rougher order. And he? He 
was home, and nothing else mattered. Henceforth 
he, too, would be a hill-man, free and unshackled. 
The weaver of his own life he would be, running the 
woof and warp of it as he willed, away from whee 
dling barter, away from the crowded, fetid bazaars 
and the shrill trade cries of the market-place. To 
morrow he would greet his clan, his family, and they 



THE HOME-COMING 57 

would ask him about his dead father, about Cairo, 
and yes they would ask him about himself and give 
him a fair measure of honor. For he was coming 
among them, not as a beggar asking for asylum and 
bread because of kinship, but as a rich man bearing 
gifts bought with the red gold of Egypt. 

"Home Allah be praised!" he thought as he 
dropped into the dreamless sleep of youth. 

"Ho, cousin mine! Ho, great lord out of 
Egypt!" . . . 

The voice seemed to come from a far distance, and 
Yar Khan thought that he was dreaming, perhaps of 
his cousin, Jehan Hydar he who had addressed him 
as "Egyptian" ; so he stretched his body luxuriously 
for a second sleep and then he felt a hand touch his 
shoulder and shake him gently. 

At once he was wide awake. It was high day, with 
the cool golden mountain sun already in the upper arc 
of the heavens and weaving a lacy, ever-shifting pat 
tern into the drab emptiness of the little hut. 

"Ho, cousin mine !" again came the voice from the 
head of the bed. Slowly he raised himself upright. 
He turned and he saw. A young girl was standing 
there, looking down at him with a smile, her narrow 
hand on his shoulder. And Yar Khan blushed and 
closed his eyes. 

For be it remembered that all his life he had lived 
in Egypt and that, while he had seen foreign women 
walk about unveiled as well as old Moslem hags who 
were considered too old to spread the soft scent of 
temptation, he had never seen a young girl of his own 
race and faith without a veil. Nor had he ever spoken 
to such a one. He had dreamt of it as boys dream 



58 ALIEN SOULS 

and there had been his father s tales of hill customs. 
Dreams and tales ! And now he had seen 

For a moment he felt oddly checked and baffled. 
He did not know what to say, and what bereft him 
of speech was not embarrassment, but this new fact 
of different customs and manners slowly awakening in 
his consciousness. Quite suddenly it seemed to him 
that his great yearning for the hills had grown out 
of a far deeper foundation than he had yet thought 
of; subconsciously he felt that this young girl was at 
the root of it, and, with the thought, with the gather 
ing conviction of it, he opened wide his eyes and looked 
at her. 

She was tall and lean, with black hair which fell 
in heavy braids over either shoulder, a low white fore 
head, the reddest of lips, and huge gray eyes set deep 
below boldly curved brows. She was not beautiful. 
But there was about her something best described as 
a deep, luminous vivacity something like an open, 
clashing response to the free life, the wild life, the 
clean life the hills. And she was his cousin? 

He formed the last thought into a wondering ques 
tion, and her reply held both confirmation and, some 
how, the flavor of prophecy. "Yes," she said, "I am 
Kumar Jan, the daughter of Rahmet Ullah, chief of 
The Hoof of the Wild Goat I am cousin to thee. 
Thus were our fathers cousins and our grandfathers 
and our grandfathers fathers cousin aye mating with 
cousin, according to the rules of the hills." 

As he still stared at her, wide-eyed, unwinking, she 
asked him why he looked at her. "Am I then a danc 
ing girl of the South or," she added, mockingly, "hast 
thou never seen a girl in all thy life?" 

And when Yar Khan replied truthfully that he had 



THE HOME-COMING 59 

not, she was out of the hut with a silvery laugh and 
the parting advice to make haste and rise "For thy 
clan is waiting for thee in full durbar!" 

A few minutes later he left the hut and stepped out 
into the village street, his goatskin bag over his shoul 
der. A snow-bitten wind was drifting down from the 
higher peaks, and the harried sun shivered and hid 
among the clouds. 

But Yar Khan, South-bred though he was, did not 
feel the sleety, grained mountain chill ; his heart seemed 
flushed with a hot June prime, and he raised his right 
hand with an exuberant gesture as he stepped into the 
council of the villagers who were squatting around a 
flickering camp-fire behind every man his wife, un 
veiled, proudly erect, her hand on her lord s shoulder, 
and everywhere the sturdy children of the hills : boys 
of twelve and thirteen who were already trying to 
emulate the fierce, sullen swagger of their sires, little 
bold-eyed girls, fondling crude dolls made of stones 
and bits of string and wood, and wee babes, like tiny 
gold-colored puff-balls, playing about their fathers 
knees or munching wheaten cakes with the solemn sat 
isfaction of childhood. 

"I have come " began Yar Khan, and then he was 
silent and his heart sagged like a leaden weight. For 
no sound of greeting rose from the villagers, and the 
bearded faces which were turned toward him seemed 
impassive and cruel and slightly mocking. 

Yar Khan felt like an intruder; there was some^ 
thing like a crash in his brain, and suddenly he realized 
that he was longing for Cairo, for the busy, motley 
crowds, the gay cries of bazaar and market-place, and 
the dancing, red-flecking sunlight of the Southern sky. 

He stood still, embarrassed, undecided what to do; 



60 ALIEN SOULS 

and then a clear voice called to him. "Ho, cousin !" 
it was the voice of Kumar Jan. 

He looked. 

She was standing behind a massive, white-bearded 
man who was squatting at the head of the durbar, 
evidently her father, Rahmet Ullah, chief of the tribe ; 
and Yar Khan s flagging spirits rose, and he walked 
up to Rahmet Ullah, kissing the hem of his robe in 
sign of fealty. 

Then and often in his thoughts, since he had rid 
den out of Bokhara, had he enacted the scene he 
threw the goatskin bag at the feet of the chief so that 
the gifts which he had brought tumbled out on the 
barren gray ground. 

"Presents for all of you, my cousins," he cried; 
"silks from Bokhara and sweetmeats from China . . ." 
suddenly he was silent. A hot red flushed his 
cheeks. 

For the uncomfortable thought came to him that he 
was praising the gifts as he had praised bartered wares 
across his father s dusty counter in the Gamalyieh; 
and there was a tense pause while some of the men 
and women stooped leisurely and fingered the presents, 
with now and then a short grunt of wonder at the 
touch of the glittering Northern silks, but with never a 
word to him of thanks or joy or pleasure. 

Even Kumar Jan, to whom he had given a fine 
Khivan shawl with his own hands, took the offering 
in a matter-of-fact way. She threw it about her shoul 
ders without a word, and Yar Khan was hurt and sad 
dened; his soul seemed charged to the brim with an 
overpowering loneliness, and terror came to his heart 
the terror of the mountains, of the far places which 
he did not understand. 



JHE HOME-COMING 61 

His lips quivered. He was about to turn, to leave 
The Hoof of the Wild Goat, to rush down the steep 
path and to take the trail the long trail, to Bokhara, 
to Cairo when the voice of Rahmet Ullah cut sharply 
into his reverie. 

The chief welcomed him into the tribe with a few 
simple words, and, indicating the whole assembly, he 
added : "These be thy cousins, Yar Khan, son of Ali 
Khan ! Their laws be thy laws, their customs thy cus 
toms, their weal thy weal, their woes thy woes, their 
feuds thy feuds! Thou art blood of our blood and 
bone of our bone! Whatever is ours is thine !" and, 
one after the other, the villagers rose and walked up 
to him. 

They greeted him, pressing palm against palm, 
coldly, impassively, with short, rasping "Salaam 
Alekhum s" and now and then a graybeard s querulous 
reflection as to manners learned among foreigners and 
infidels reflections spiced and sharpened with Afghan 
proverbs. 

"If a man be ugly what can the mirror do?" croaked 
a battle-scarred grandfather who walked heavily with 
the aid of a straight-bladed British cavalry saber doubt 
less stolen during a raid across the Indian border ; an 
other chimed in with the even, passionless statement 
that the cock went to learn the walk of the goose and 
forgot his own, while a third gaunt old warrior with 
the bilious complexion of the hashish-smoker in 
quired of the world at large why it was that in the 
estimation of some people the strings of their cotton 
drawers rivaled in splendor the Ameer s silken 
breeches. 

The girls and the children tittered at the last re 
mark; and when the younger tribesmen came up to 



62 ALIEN SOULS 

salute their cousin there were open sneers, and finally 
a loud, insulting question from Jehan Hydar who 
asked Yar Khan, pointing at his peach-colored Cairene 
waistcoat, if he had ever considered what a pig could 
do with a rose-bottle. 

Yar Khan flushed an angry purple. This he 
thought was the fair measure of honor which he had 
expected, this the home-coming and he had traveled 
the many weary miles, he had bought presents for them 
purchased with the bitter gold of exile, he had given 
them of his best in loyalty and desire and free-handed 
generosity ! 

He was silent. He felt Kumar Jan s eyes resting 
upon him, wonderingly, expectantly and what could 
she expect? He had gone to the hills in search of 
freedom, and now he was forfeit to the customs of 
the hills. He had gathered the swords of humiliation 
under his armpits, and the feeling of it was bitter and 
vain. 

He looked up. Jehan Hydar was still standing in 
front of him, a mocking smile playing about his thin 
lips and in his oblique eyes a light like a high-eddying 
flame. 

"Cousin," he drawled, and the simple word held the 
soft thud of a hidden, deadly insult, "cousin to me, 
to all of us ! Yet do I declare by the teeth of Allah," 
here his eyes sought those of Kumar Jan, who stood 
close by, her whole attitude one of tense expectancy, 
"yes! I declare by mine own honor that thou seem- 
est more like an Egyptian, a foreigner, an eater of 
fish from the South of stinking fish, belike," he 
added as an insulting after-thought; and there was 
mocking laughter all around, high-pitched, cruel, 



THE HOME-COMING 63 

rasping; but clearest and sharpest rose the laughter 
from Kumar Jan s red lips. 

It was then that Yar Khan s good-humor suddenly 
broke into a hundred splintering pieces. His rage 
surged in deadly crimson waves. He forgot that 
these men were his blood-kin. He forgot the yearn 
ing of the swinging years. He only saw the sneer 
which cleft Jehan Hydar s bold face; he only heard 
the laughter which bubbled from Kumar Jan s lips, 
and he stepped up close to the other. 

"Better dried fish in the South," he cried, "than a 
naked dagger in the hills," and his knife leaped out 
with a soft whit-whit. But he had no time to strike, 
to stain his soul with the blood of kin; for, even as 
he spoke, even as the knife left the scabbard, a dozen 
stout arms were about him, hugging him close and 
there were laughter and frantic shouts of joy. 
Bearded faces touched his ; the children crowded about 
him and hailed him with shrill cries ; the women bowed 
before him with a clank and jingle of silver orna 
ments ; and again, clearest, sharpest, rose Kumar Jan s 
laughter but this time it was not the laughter of 
derision. 

Suddenly, Yar Khan understood. They had tested 
his manhood after the manner of the hills and they 
had not found him wanting ; and so, when he walked 
away from the camp-fire with Kumar Jan by his side, 
the hard, pent rage which had bitten into his heart 
disappeared like chaff in the meeting of winds. 

He was home, home! 

He said to himself that these men were his kin, 
that their woes were his woes, their laws his laws, 
their feuds his feuds and he knew why there had 
been no thanks when he had emptied his goatskin bag 



j6$ ALIEN SOULS 

at the feet of the chief. Yes! Whatever was his 
was theirs thus the law of the hills and then some 
thing in his heart seemed to flame upward. 

He looked at Kumar Jan. 

She, too, had spoken of the law of the hills the 
law which says that cousin shall aye mate with cousin; 
and she she was his cousin. 

And then, thinking epically as hillmen do in mo 
ments of great emotion he said to himself that the 
stroke and slash of his dagger were hers, that hers 
was his brain, hers the eloquence of his tongue, hers 
the strength of his body and the golden dreams of his 
soul. 

He gripped her hand and he knew that he had 
come home. 



THE DANCE ON THE HILL 

BEHIND him the Koh Haji-Lal, the "Mountains of 
the Red Pilgrim," closed like a ragged tide. In front 
of him the snowy peaks of the Gul Koh pointed to 
the skies in an abandon of frozen, lacy spires, while 
ten miles the other side Ghuzni dipped to the green 
of the valley with an avalanche of flat, white roof 
tops, huddled close together beneath the chill of the 
Himalayas. The English doctor lived there, mixing 
his drugs and scolding his patients in the little house 
at the end of the perfume-sellers bazaar, in the 
shadow of the great bronze Mogul gun which both 
Afghans and Lohani Sikhs called the Zubba-zung. 

Mortazu Khan thought of him as he came down the 
mountain-side, his rough sheepskin coat folded across 
the smalt of his back to give free play to his lungs; 
his short, hairy arms, sleeves rolled to the elbows, 
moving up and down like propeller-blades. He 
walked with the suspicious step of the hill-bred who 
reckons with inequalities of ground, lifting his rope- 
soled sandals gingerly over timberfalls and crumbling 
granite slides, putting on extra speed when he crossed 
a wide spread of rust-brown bracken that covered the 
summer hue of the slope like a scarf, again warily 
slowing as he forded a swift little stream bordered 
with scented wild peppermint and chini stalks and 
gray, spiky wormwood. 

But straight through he kept up a steady clip, aver- 

65 



58475 fHS 



66 ALIEN SOULS 

aging w.ell over five miles an hour, up-hill or down. 

There was peace with the Suni Pathans who 
squatted on the upland pastures and so he had left 
his rifle at home, carrying only a broad-bladed dagger. 
He was glad of it, for a rifle meant weight, weight in 
the hills meant lack of speed, and speed was essential. 
All last night his wife had moaned terribly, and the 
village wise-woman, at the end of her remedies, had 
told him that he needed the English hakim s skill be 
fore the day was out if he wanted his wife to live: 
his wife, and the little son he hoped it would be a 
son whom she was bringing into the world with 
such anguish. 

Three hours he figured to Ghuzni. Three back. 
Rather a little more, since the foreigner was not hill- 
bred. Thus he would safely reach his village before 
the sun had raced to the west; and by night his wife 
would hold another little son in her arms. 

Of course there would be a wrangle with the hakim, 
Mortazu Khan thought and smiled at the thought. 

First was spoken the ceremonious Afghan greet 
ing, cut short by the Englishman s impatient, "Why 
haven t you come sooner?" and his reply that his wife 
was a stout hill woman who had borne children be 
fore this; also that he had called in the wise-woman. 

"What did she do?" 

"She gave her fish sherbet to cool her blood. She 
put leeches on her chest. She wrote a Koran verse 
on a piece of paper, lit it, and held it smoking under 
Azeena s nose " 

And then the hakim s furious bellow : "Of all the 
damned ! Good God! man, let s hurry, or your 
wife ll go out before we get there!" 

At the end of the imagined scene Mortazu Khan s 



(THE DANCE ON THE HILL 67 

\ 

smile twisted to a lop-sided frown. The doctor 
would be rightly angry. He should have gone to him 
yesterday. He should not have called in the wise- 
woman. He had given her five rupees He 
shrugged his shoulders. To-morrow he would make 
her eat stick and force her to give back the money 

He increased his speed as he reached the edge of 
the slope where it flattened to a rock-studded plateau, 
with here and there little gentians peeping from 
granite splits and opening their stiff, azure stars. He 
bent and picked one to put in his turban for good 
luck, and as he straightened up again he smelled a 
familiar odor and saw two small, reddish eyes glar 
ing at him from a clump of thorny wild acacia. 

He stood quite still. Instinctively he fingered 
across his left shoulder for the rifle which was not 
there. Then he walked on. At this time of the year 
the blue-gray, bristly haired mountain bears were not 
dangerous. They were busy filling their sagging 
bellies with prangus leaves and mulberries against the 
lean season. He would leave the bear alone, he de 
cided, and the bear would leave him alone. 

But when a moment later he heard the animal give 
tongue a low, flat rumble growing steadily into a 
sustained roar, then stabbing out in a squeaky high 
note that sounded ridiculously inadequate, given the 
brute s size Mortazu Khan, without looking over his 
shoulder, jumped sideways like a cat, cleared a heap 
of dry twigs, and made straight for a stout fir-tree 
that towered in lanky loneliness a dozen yards away. 
He reached it and jumped behind it. His hands 
gripped the rough, warty bark. 

"Some cursed fool of a foreigner must have burned 
her pelt with a bullet of pain." He spoke aloud, after 



68 ALIEN SOULS 

the manner of hillmen. "And now Bibi Bear has a 
grouch " 

He completed the sentence just as the bear tore out 
of the acacia clump and made after him with a huge, 
plumping, clumsy bound and a whickering, whinnying 
roar. 

"Allah be thanked because He gave me nimble 
feet!" ejaculated Mortazu Khan. "And praise to 
Him furthermore because He made this tree and 
caused it to grow thick !" He finished his impromptu 
prayer as he slid rapidly to the west side of the fir 
while the bear lunged, big flat paws clawing, gaping 
mouth showing the crimson throat, the chalk-white 
teeth, the lolling, slobbering tongue, ears flat on the 
narrow head like the head of a great snake. 

The bear missed the hillman by half a yard and, 
carried away by her weight and impetus, she landed, 
paws sprawling, head down, on a bed of ochre moss 
studded with needle-sharp granite splinters. Her 
pointed muzzle, bumped smartly against the ground, 
was torn by the ragged stone edges, and plowed a 
painful furrow through the moss so that it rose to 
either side in a velvety cloud. 

She bellowed her disappointment and fury, sat on 
her hunkers, slid back half a dozen yards, using her 
fat hams with the speed and precision of roller-skates, 
then returned to the attack, launching her blue-gray 
bulk straight for the west side of the tree. 

"Ahi! Pig, and Parent of Piglings!" shouted 
Mortazu Khan, as he rapidly made the half -circle 
around the tree to the opposite side. 

"Waughrrrr-yi-yi!" said the bear, very low in her 
throat and with a certain hurt, childish intonation. 

"Pig !" repeated the hillman, wiping the sweat from 



THE DANCE ON THE HILL 69 

his forehead, while the bear, who had again landed 
head down on the ground, wrinkled her ugly, thin- 
skinned nose where the warm blood was trickling 
down into her open mouth. 

Mortazu Khan watched carefully. He knew that 
he was safe as long as he kept the tree between him 
self and the brute, knew, too, that he was the more 
agile of the two. 

Not that the bear was slow, but her body was 
longer, her bulk larger. She could not make short 
turns in a whizzing, flying half-circle like the hillman. 
She could charge with a thousand pounds of bunched 
muscle and brutal meat but when she missed, the 
best she could do was to use her nose and forepaws 
as brakes, bump back, twist in a sharp angle right or 
left, according to what side of the tree Mortazu Khan 
had slid and return to the charge. And always the 
man, keeping tight to the fir, got ahead of her, while 
the bear, squealing like an angry boar, landed on the 
ground, hurting her delicate nose and clawing with 
her paws till the moss was shredded to rags and the 
sand beneath seemed to look up with scared, yellow 
eyes. 

Little stones clattered mockingly. Twigs crackled 
and whined. Somewhere from the higher branches 
a noise trembled a gurgling, throaty noise. Doubt 
less the cry of a buvra kurra, a black tree grouse, 
thought the hillman, cursing the bird because of its 
place of security, cursing the bear because of her 
wickedness. 

"Dog ! Jew ! Drunkard ! Illegitimate cow !" he 
yelled as he danced around the tree, left and right and 
left again, his fingers scraping the bark and the bark 
scraping his fingers "Away! away!" Bibi Bear 



70 ALIEN SOULS 

after him, roaring, fuming, and always missing her 
aim. 

The bear s little, narrow-lidded eyes glowed like 
charcoal balls. The hair along her back was thick 
and taut, her ears flat. There was something ludi 
crous in her appearance, too something which spoke 
of iron, sinister resolution. 

Plump! Down on her nose, paws furrowing the 
ground! Twist and squat and twist. 

She tried to learn from Mortazu Khan, tried to 
whiz her bulk in shorter circles, to charge straight at 
her foe. But always she missed. Always she had 
to brake with head and paws and make sharp angles 
while the man danced away. 

"Infidel! Parent of naughty daughters!" shouted 
Mortazu Khan as the bear missed him by less than 
a foot. 

His hands were hot and raw. His heart was cold 
with fear. For back across the hills was the mother 
of his sons and then he cursed again the little bird 
which gurgled in the branches. He could not see it. 
But the gurgle was becoming loud, insistent, blending 
curiously and malignantly with the bear s wicked 
bellow. 

Underneath his duffle shirt sweat rolled in little icy 
balls. His feet hurt. Moss had been around the 
base of the tree, but he had worn great holes in it, 
then long furrows and grooves. Now the whole 
cover of moss was trampled away, and he was dancing 
on the naked ground. One of his sandals had split 
the heel-rope and had flown away and out, while he 
had stepped through the other so that it was around 
his ankles. His toes were bleeding 

And Azeena waited ! 



THE DANCE ON THE HILL 71 

But what could he do with his bare hands, without 
his rifle? The dagger? He could throw it yes! 
And what then? One does not kill a mountain bear 
with a single thrust of steel. So he kept whizzing 
around the tree, and his thoughts whizzed along, his 
fears, his hopes and then, quite suddenly, the bear 
changed her tactics. 

"Alrrrh whoof airrh!" she said with low, rum 
bling dignity. 

"Wheet-wheet!" came the echo from the branches 
of the tree where the cursed, feathery thing was roost 
ing in safety. 

And Bibi Bear rose on her hind feet, fir needles 
and moss sticking to her pelt, belly sagging loosely, 
perspiration rising from her nostrils in a gray flag of 
steam. Straight toward the tree she walked, fore- 
paws wide extended as if to embrace the fir and the 
miserable being who was clinging to it for dear life. 

Something like a slobbering grin curled the brute s 
black, leathery lips, and Mortazu Khan watched. His 
skin seemed to shrink. Blue wheels whirled in front 
of his eyes. A hammer beat at the base of his skull. 

Ahi! There was Azeena who would not live out 
the day unless. . . . 

"Allah!" he said. "It is not I who shall be a 
widower to-night, but Azeena who shall be a widow !" 
and his knife flashed free while the bear came on, 
slow, ponderous, thinking in her ugly, twisted brain 
that all would be over in two crimson minutes if she 
could only tear the man away from the protecting tree. 

Mortazu Khan knew it, too. "Assassin !" he cried. 
"Base-born and lean bastard!" 

"Waughree!" replied the bear. 

She came on without haste, leaned smack against 



T2 ALIEN SOULS 

the tree, and tried to reach around it, right and left, 
with her murderous claws. But the tree was too 
stout, and for the moment the hillman was safe. 

He smiled. Then he frowned. For the sun was 
rising higher, and he had to reach Ghuzni the doc 
tor and back yonder Azeena was dying . . . 

"Unclean spawn of filth!" he cried. "Large and 
stinking devil!" and quite suddenly, watching his 
chance, he flashed his dagger to the left. He brought 
down the point with speed and ferocity, straight into 
the brute s right eye. 

Something warm and sticky squirted up his arm. 
The bear, crazed with pain, jumped high in the air 
like a rubber ball, came down again, roaring, squeal 
ing, bellowing, slid lumberingly to the left, and again 
Mortazu Khan resumed his dance . 

But this time it was another dance. This time the 
bear had no sharp angles to make. Both man and 
beast were close against the tree, circling, circling 

i 

The sun rose and dipped. Far on the edge of the 
horizon the peaks of the Gul Koh flushed gold and 
lavender. 

"Waughrrr!" snorted the bear, stamping her 
clumsy paws. 

"Wheet-wheet!" chirped the echo from the upper 
most branches of the fir, silly, mocking and safe! 
And back beyond the bracken-clad slope, Azeena was 
dying hard, and his son was dying dying before he 
was born because Bibi Bear had broken the truce of 
the fat season. 

Mortazu Khan trembled with rage and fear. But 
away! circling the tree, escaping the murderous 
claws! 



JHE DANCE ON THE HILL 73 

He did not jump. No longer did he dance. He 
seemed to stream, to flow, like a liquid wave, his body 
scrunched into a curve while his lungs pumped the 
breath with staccato thumps. Only his hand was 
steady, taking crimson toll again and again, and the 
bear followed, roaring like forked mountain thunder. 
The blood on her huge body was caked with dirt and 
moss until the wounds looked like gray patches on 
a fur jacket. 

A shimmering thread of sun-gold wove through the 
branches and dipped low to see what was happening. 
Far in the east a crane-pheasant called to its mate. 
The wind soared lonely and chilly. 

They were out of breath, man and beast. Momen 
tarily they stopped in their mad circling, the bear 
leaning against one side of the tree, a deep sob gur 
gling in her hairy throat, the blood coming through 
her wounds like black-red whips, while the man was 
huddled against the opposite side as tight and small 
as he could. He was tired and sleepy. His right 
hand felt paralyzed, but still it gripped the dagger. 
He knew that the end was near, knew that he him 
self must hasten it, that he must face Bibi Bear face 
her in the open and kill or be killed. For back yon 
der was Azeena, and the minutes were slipping by 
like water. 

He raked together the dying embers of his strength. 
"Allah!" he mumbled. "Do thou give me help!" 
And then he heard again the cry of the cursed, 
feathery thing: 

"Wheet-wheet!" 

But it seemed less mocking than before, more in 
sistent, as if the bird, too, had lost its sense of security, 
had begun to fear the shaggy murderer below. 



74 ALIEN SOULS 

Mortazu Khan looked up. Then he saw it. It had 
dropped to a branch lower down, and it was not a 
bird It was round and toddling and fluffy and 
blue-gray. A little, fat bear cub it was; and then 
Mortazu Khan knew why Bibi Bear had broken the 
truce of the fat season, and a certain pity and under 
standing came to the hillman s simple heart. 

Here he was fighting for his wife, his unborn son, 
and he said to himself that the bear, too, was fighting 
for the young of her body, for the thing which gave 
meaning to life. And it was without hatred with 
respect, rather, and a feeling of comradeship that 
Mortazu Khan stepped away from the protecting tree, 
deliberately to give battle in the open. 

The bear followed, growling. And so the two stood 
there, confronting each other, both breathing harc^ 
ready to leap, ready to finish the fight. 

It was the man who leaped first. For the fraction 
of a second he balanced himself, his bleeding toes 
gripping the ground. Then he went straight into the 
bear s embrace, the point of his dagger ahead of him 
like a guidon. His lips were crinkly and pale, his 
tongue like dry saddle leather, his eyes cold and gleam 
ing. But straight he jumped, and straight stabbed 
the knife, finding the brute s pumping, clamorous 
heart, while the claws met across his shoulder-blades 
and tore a furrow down his back. 

Straight to the heart! With every ounce of 
bunched strength and despair, and as the bear, in mor 
tal agony, realized her steely grip, he struck again and 
again and again. But there was no hatred in the 
blows. 

"Ahi!" he sobbed, as the bear toppled sideways and 



75 

fell, curling up like a sleeping dog. "Ahi! Poor 
Bibi Bear! Brave Bibi Bear!" 

His back bled and hurt. But he jerked the pain 
away with a shrug of his massive shoulder. The 
English hakim would have two patients instead of 
one, he told himself, and, dizzy, a little depressed, 
he turned to resume his walk across the plateau. 

But something seemed to float down upon his con 
sciousness, imperceptibly, like the shadow of a leaf 
through summer dusk, and he stopped and returned 
to the fir-tree. Standing on his toes, he reached up 
and caught the toddling, fluffy cub which was trying 
hard to back up, to regain the security of the higher 
branches. 

"Come, little Sheik Bear !" he crooned as he might 
to a frightened child. "Come! There is room for 
thee in the house of Mortazu Khan ! Room and food 
and water and soon, if Allah be willing and the 
hakim s medicine strong, a little man-child to play 
with thee!" 

And, the cub nuzzling his heaving chest with a 
little grunt of satisfaction, Mortazu Khan walked to 
ward the flat roofs of Ghuzni, leaving behind him a 
thin trail of blood, but hurrying, hurrying. 



THE RIVER OF HATE 

"THE Wrath of the Thunder Gods," the Kafiri hill- 
men called the river that dropped to the western plains 
of Afghanistan and over into soft Persia in a suc 
cession of overlapping falls like the feathers on the 
breast of a pouter pigeon, while the Afghan nobles 
who, armed with the great, carved seal of the Gov 
ernor of Kabul, came there to levy the quota of young 
men for the Ameer s army, called it the "River of 
Hate." 

And Kafiri, as well as Afghans, spoke the truth. 

For, during three months of the year, the North 
wind was riding a wracked sky and met the shock of 
the racing, roaring river, and the thunder crashed from 
the high ranges, splintering the young pines, occa 
sionally taking toll of human life; and it was hate, 
even more than the swirling breadth of the river, 
which divided the villages that squatted on either bank. 

South of the river, the Red Village lay spotted and 
threatening, like a tiger asleep in the sun, while North 
the flat-roofed houses of the White Village seemed 
snow flakes dropped on slabs of sullen granite as 
sullen as the temper of the people when they looked 
across and saw the men of the Red Village sweep the 
whirlpool of the Black Rock with crude, effective net 
traps made of jungly rattan and hempen ropes ; when 
they saw the catch of fat, blue-scaled, red-eyed khirli 
fish drawn up on the bank and flopping in the quiver 
ing light like dusky flecks of sunshine. 

76 



L THE RIVER OF HATE 77 

The Black Rock was the fortune of the Red Village. 

Forming the end and pinnacle of a chain of ragged, 
slippery stones that spanned three-fourths of the 
river s breadth and rose and fell to the rise and fall 
of the water, it was within fifteen feet of the southern 
bank, and in winter, when rain had been heavy in the 
mountains and the River of Hate surged up a man s 
height in a couple of hours, it acted like a natural dam. 

But in summer, when, freed from snow, the higher 
range limned ghostly out of the purple-gray distance 
and drouth shrunk the river, the Black Rock peaked 
to a height of thirty feet and caused the water to drop 
into a great whirlpool, not far from the Red Village, 
where it blossomed like a gigantic waxen flower. 

Too, it is in summer that the khirli fish, obeying 
their ancient tribal customs, come from their spawn 
ing, and when they return down the River of Hate 
on their way to the Persian Gulf, they are tired and 
weary with the many miles. So they lie down to 
rest in the bottom of the whirlpool of the Black Rock 
where the fishing rights, by immemorial law, antedat 
ing the law of the Koran, belong to the people of the 
Red Village; and the villagers catch them and feast, 
while the men of the White Village bemoan their fate 
and take the name of Allah and if the Afghan priests 
be not listening the names of various heathen gods 
decidedly in vain. 

But they do not fight the people of the Red Village, 
except with an occasional stone or stick hurled from 
ambush and not meant to kill. For a law is a law. 

When, after seven years service in the Ameer s 
army during which he had learned to shoot straight, 
to substitute a tall black fur cap, worn rakishly over 



78 ALIEN SOULS 

the right ear, for the greasy shawl turban of the 
Kafiri, to embroider his rough hill diction with flowery 
Persian metaphor, and to ogle the women in the 
bazaars Ebrahim Asif received word that his father, 
Sabihhudin Achmat, had died, and that he was now 
chief of the White Village, he went straight to the 
Governor of Kabul and asked to be released from 
service. 

"My people are clamoring for me," he added in a 
lordly manner. 

The Governor saw before him a young man, not 
over twenty-five, of a supple sweep of shoulders, a 
great, crunching reach of arms, a massive chest, and 
a dead-white, hawkish face that rose up from a black, 
pointed beard like a sardonic Chinese vignette. He 
thought to himself that here was a Kafiri, a turbulent 
pagan hillman indeed; but that seven years in Kabul 
must have put the Afghan brand upon his soul, and 
that he might be a valuable ally if ever his lawless 
tribesmen should give trouble perhaps, only Allah 
knew ! as a raiding vanguard accompanying an invad 
ing British or Russian column, as the little, sniveling, 
dirt-nosing jackals accompany the tiger. 

"Your prayer is granted, Ebrahim Asif, M the Gov 
ernor said. "Return to your own people a chief. 
And " he smiled, "also remember that you are an Af 
ghan, and no longer a lousy hillman !" 

"Yes, Excellency!" said Ebrahim Asif. 

On the second day out of Kabul he was back over 
the borders of his own country. On the third, he 
saw the faint, silvery gray mountain, flung like a cloud 
against the sky, that marked the western limit of the 
White Village. 

On the morning of the fourth, he was sitting on a 



[THE RIVER OF HATE 79 

raised earthen platform in the communal council hut 
of the village where his ancestors had been hereditary 
rulers since before the shining adventure of Shikandar 
Khan, he whom the Christians call Alexander the Mace 
donian, his rifle across his knees, and a naked, pot 
bellied boy of ten fanning him with a silver-handled 
yak tail, stolen during some raid into Tibet. He was 
holding a perfumed, daintily embroidered handkerchief 
to his nose. 

On the bare mud floor, below the platform, squatted 
the men of the village, some thirty in number, in a 
confused heap of sun-and-dirt-browned arms, legs and 
patched multi-colored garments. 

Ebrahim Asif, remembering the days of his child 
hood when his father had occupied the seat of chief 
which to-day was his, turned slightly to the left. 

Directly in front of him squatted an old man whose 
name was Jarullah. His face was like a gnarled bit 
of deodar wood beneath a thatch of bristly, reddish 
hair. 

Ebrahim Asif pointed at him. 

"Jarullah," he said, "you are the oldest. Let me 
hear what wisdom, if any, the many years have 
brought you." 

"It is not money we want," muttered Jarullah. 

Then, embarrassed he knew not why, he checked 
himself. His roving eyes sought his knees and he 
coughed apologetically, until a young man, lean, red- 
haired, with pock-marked vulpine features and bold 
gray eyes, stepped forward, pushed Jarullah uncere 
moniously aside, and squatted down in his place. 

Over his shoulder, he pointed through the doorway, 
at the River of Hate, and the hissing whirlpool of the 
Black Rock, and beyond, at the Red Village, that 



8o ALIEN SOULS 

seemed stiff and motionless in the quivering heat as if 
forged out of metal. Only at the bank were signs of 
life the men pulling in the nets sagging with their 
shimmering load. Occasionally, a high-pitched, exult 
ant yell drifted thinly across. 

"Our bellies are empty, Chief/ the young man 
whose name was Babar, said sulkily, "while they " 
he spat "the people of the Red Village " 

Ebrahim. Asif rose, picked up his rifle by the shoulder 
strap, and walked toward the door. 

"The old feud, eh?" he asked. "The feud over a 
potful of stinking khirli fish? By the teeth of the 
Prophet on whom peace I shall spice their mid-day 
meal with a couple of bullets and a rich sluicing of 
blood!" 

But Jarullah stepped into his path and laid a trem 
bling hand on his shoulder. 

"There is the law, Chief!" he cried in a cracked, 
excited whine. "The fishing rights of the southern 
bank belong to the Red Village. Remember the law 
of theKafiri!" 

"There is no law for Afghans," smiled Ebrahim 
Asif. 

"Right!" shrieked the old man. "There is indeed 
no law for Afghans! But you are a Kafiri, Chief. 
You must keep sacred the ancient law of the tribes " 
and an angry, clucking chorus rose from the squatting 
clansmen. 

"The ancient law! The ancient law!" 

Ebrahim Asif was utterly astonished. 

Quite instinctively he had picked up his rifle. Quite 
instinctively he had decided to send a few bullets whiz 
zing to the opposite shore. It would be perfectly safe. 
For the only firearms that ever came into Kafiristan 



THE RIVER OF HATE 81 

were those of the Ameer s ruffianly soldiers, soldiers 
either on active duty or, like himself, released from 
service, and he knew that for many years past no man 
of the Red Village had been drafted into the army. 

Thus he was perfectly safe in announcing his pres 
ence to them with a charge of lead and, later on, of 
coming to terms : a fair half of the khirli catch to his 
own village otherwise bullets and blood. 

It was simple as sublimely simple, as sublimely 
brutal as his whole philosophy of life. 

But they had spoken about the law the ancient 
law 

The young man with the pock-marked, vulpine face 
Babar had seemed the most manly of them all. 

"What do you say, Babar?" he asked, and the other 
mumbled piously, "It is the law. The fishing rights 
of the southern bank belong to the Red Village." 

Ebrahim Asif shook his head. He stalked through 
the doorway, while the villagers looked after him, 
stolid, sullen. He walked up to the River of Hate. 

The men of the Red Village were still fishing, peace 
ful, undisturbed, serenely safe. One looked up, 
squinted against the light with sharp, puckered eyes, 
and seemed to see the rifle in Ebrahim Asif s hand. 
But he paid no attention to it. To him, too, there 
was the ancient law. 

And, suddenly, out of the nowhere, a heavy weight 
dropped on Ebrahim Asif s soul. 

"Yes," he murmured, "there is the law for us 
Kafiri " and he tossed the rifle into the swirling, 
foaming water. 

Late that night, as he sat alone in his father s hut, 
which was now his, scraps of memory came to him. 
Piece by piece he put them together. 



82 ALIEN SOULS 

He remembered how, years ago, when he had been 
a naked, sun-burned child with a red turban cloth 
wound about his shaven poll, his father, Sabihhudin 
Achmat, had been guide to a Kashmere rajah who had 
come North to hunt the thick-pelted, broad-headed 
tigers that drift into Kafiristan in the wake of the 
Mongolian snows. The rajah had brought a large 
retinue of servants, and one evening they and their 
master and his father had whispered together. 

They had set to work, under the rajah s guidance. 
All night they had worked, with little Ebrahim look 
ing on open-mouthed, using odd bits of steel and wire 
taken from the rajah s voluminous baggage, and wood 
and stones and spliced ropes and rattan. 

About midnight they had sneaked out of the house 
and through the sleeping village, to the bank of the 
River of Hate, carrying between them a strange con 
trivance that seemed round and heavy. Hours later, 
his father had returned, drenched to the skin, but 
triumphant. 

Today, Ebrahim Asif knew that the strange con 
trivance the Kashmere men had fashioned that night 
and which his father had put in a hole of the Black 
Rock, below the surface, was a water wheel to change 
the main current of the whirlpool, for since then he 
had seen many such wheels. 

And when the next drouth had shrunk the river 
and the khirli fish had returned from their spawning, 
when the people of the Red Village had swept the 
whirlpool of the Black Rock, day after day, they had 
caught no more than a lean handful of skinny, smelly 
dagger-fish, while the men of the White Village, won 
dering, yet obeying their chief s command, had gone 
down to the northern bank where the fishing rights 



THE RIVER OF HATE 83 

were theirs and had set to work with improvised gear. 

The catch had been huge; and for weeks, they had 
eaten their fill of khirli spiced with turmeric and 
sesame, while the people on the opposite shore had be 
moaned their fate and had rubbed empty wrinkled 
stomachs. 

Only the hereditary chief of the Red Village, Yar 
Zaddiq, a shrewd, elderly man, over six feet in height, 
with gray hair that had once been reddish-brown, a 
biting tongue and doubting, deep set eyes, had sus 
pected the hand of man and, late one night, when the 
water was very low, had swum over to the Black Rock 
at the risk of his life and had investigated. 

He had called for help. The wheel had been torn 
out, and a few days later, four miles up the river, ac 
companied by several of his clansmen, he had chanced 
upon Sabihhudin Achmat and had beaten him terribly. 

After that, there had been no more catching of 
khirli fish on the northern bank, and the old hate of 
White Village against Red had grown a thousandfold. 

The days that followed were drab and listless. 

Ebrahim Asif stalked through the village in his best, 
most braggart Kabuli manner. 

But, for the first time in his life, he was aware of a 
strange sensation which, had he been a westerner, he 
would have correctly analyzed as self-consciousness. 

He said to himself that these were his people, that 
they had put their grievances before his feet trusting 
to his wisdom and strength and their greatest griev 
ance was the matter of the khirli fish, the matter of 
the River of Hate. Willing and ready he had been 
to help them, he continued his thoughts angrily, but 
they had tied his hands with their babble about the 



84 ALIEN SOULS 

ancient tribal laws; he had tossed his rifle into the 
water and what did they want him to do? 

They supplied him with food and tobacco and bhang 
as was his right, since he was their chief. But it was 
all done grudgingly, as a drab matter of duty. 

Yet there was little open complaint ; just an under 
current of muttering and whining. Only the young 1 
man, Babar, put it into words one day. 

"You are the Chief," he said. "You must help us !" 

Simple enough words. But, somehow, they seemed 
to Ebrahim the final, unbearable stigma. 

"Do you want me to attempt the impossible, O 
Abuser of the Salt, O Son of a Burnt Father?" he 
cried. "Do you want me to make noises with my 
ears and catch the wind of heaven with my bare hands, 
O Cold of Countenance?" and he beat Babar with 
the flat of his saber till the blood came. 

After that, the people of the village, his own people, 
trembled when he passed. And in all Kafiristan there 
was no man more lonely than he. 

Thus he took to roaming the hills up and down the 
River of Hate, climbing to the higher range where, 
caught in crevices, the snow lay clean and stainless 
beneath the crisp air, down abrupt precipices, and into 
thick forests of spruce and beach where the dry leaves 
lay in intricate, wind-tossed, fox-red patterns fretted 
with delicate green shadows; and one day, returning 
past the natural bridge that marked the line between 
the two villages and where, years earlier, his father had 
been beaten by Yar Zaddiq, he saw a young girl stand 
ing there, poised lightly upon narrow, sandaled feet, 
and looking out upon the foaming River of Hate. 

She turned as she heard his approach and stared at 
him fearlessly, and he stood still and stared back. 



JHE RIVER OF HATE 85 

She was sixteen years of age. Her small slender 
body, just budding into the promise of womanhood 
beneath the thin, fringed, brown and gray striped fus 
tian robe that covered her from her neck to just below 
her knees, was perfect in every line. Her parted, 
braided hair was light brown and as smooth as oil, her 
eyes were gray with intensely black pupils, and her 
nose straight and short. There was a sweet curve to 
her upper lip and a quick, smiling lift at the corners. 

The smile rippled into low, gurgling laughter when 
she saw Ebrahim Asif bow deeply before her with 
clasped hands, as she had seen the men of her village 
salaam to the Ameer s swashbuckling emissaries. 

He straightened up. With unconsciously graceful 
ease he put his hand on the heavy, carved silver hilt 
of his sword and looked at her squarely. 

And his words, too, were square and clear, yet 
tinged with a certain reckless, boisterous good humor, 
a certain swaggering bravado. 

"Your name,. Crusher of Hearts !" 

Again the girl laughed. 

"I am Kurjan," she said. "I am the daughter of 
Yar Zaddiq, Chief of the Red Village, who, it is told, 
once gave your father a sound beating." 

"Then you know my name?" he rejoined, flushing 
darkly. 

"Evidently, Ebrahim Asif !" came her mocking reply. 
"The fame of your splendor has traveled many miles, 
also the tale of how wisely you rule your own people, 
how you fill their stomachs with khirli fish how they 
love you, O great Afghan " 

But, suddenly, she checked the flow of words and 
turned to go when she saw the man s insolent, black 
eyes fixed upon her with a calm, uncontrolled expres- 



86 ALIEN SOULS 

sion of admiration and desire, and instinctively she 
drew in her breath and clasped her right hand against 
her heart, as unhurryingly, he stepped up to her. 

"Kurjan, daughter of Yar Zaddiq," he said very 
gently, "I am not an Afghan, though my dress is that 
of the Kabuli and though my lips have forgotten the 
proper twist and click of my native tongue in the many 
years I have spent away from home. I am a Kafiri, 
a hillman of hillmen and " suddenly his voice peaked 
up to a high, throaty note, like the cry of an eagle 
circling above a frightened, fluttering song bird "I 
love like a Kafiri !" 

And, before she had time to run or defend herself, 
his great arms were about her, crushing her against 
his massive chest so that the long braids of her hair 
swept the ground behind her. 

Very slowly, as if reluctantly, he released her. 

"Go back to your father," he continued as she stood 
there, panting, a rush of unknown sensations, shy 
ness, mixed with fear and a strange, tremulous, pain 
ing delight, surging through her body. "Tell him 
that a man has come to the River of Hate. Tell him 
that to-night I shall come to his house to demand you 
as my wife. And as to you, Crusher of Hearts 
tell yourself when you lie on your couch, that I love 
you that there is a sweetness and strength in my 
soul which is known to your soul only!" 

And he walked away, his saber clanking behind 
him ; and he did not turn once to look back at her. 

Kurjan did not know if it was the strange, sweet 
shyness which had come to her so abruptly, or fear 
of her father s terrible, raging temper which sealed her 
lips. At all events, she did not say a word of what 
had happened to her when she reached home. Courte- 



THE RIVER OF HATE 87 

ously she bowed to her father who was resting his 
huge old gnarled body on the earthen platform, and 
stepped through the curtain into the back part of the 
house where the women crouched over the crimson 
charcoal balls of the cooking fire. 

Thus, hours later, when night had dropped as it 
does in the hills, quickly, like a black-winged bird, 
and when Ehrahim Asif had gone up the river, crossed 
the natural bridge, and passed through the silent Red 
Village to the house of Yar Zaddiq, he found the latter 
unprepared for his coming. 

But his first words explained the purpose of his 
visit. "I am Ebrahim Asif, the son of Sabihhudin 
Achmat, Chief of the White Village," he said with 
nonchalant dignity. "I have decided that your daugh 
ter shall be the mother of my sons. Hasten the wed 
ding, old Chief. For I am an impatient man who does 
not brook denial or contradiction, and my young blood 
is sultry with passion." 

And, calmly, he squatted down and helped himself 
to the other s supply of finely shaved bhang, conscious, 
by the rustle of the curtain that shut off the back 
part of the house, that Kurjan was looking at him. 

She was standing very still, her heart thumping 
violently. Quickly, imperceptibly, the knowledge 
floated down upon her that she loved him. Anxiously, 
she waited for her father s reply. 

When Yar Zaddiq looked up his words dropped 
smooth and even, as stones drop down a glacier. 

"So you are Ebrahim Asif " his lips curled in a 
crooked smile, exposing the toothless gums stained 
with opium and tobacco "the son of him whom once 
I beat grievously with sticks as a dog is beaten with 
thorn sticks ?" 



88 ALIEN SOULS 

"You and your tribesmen ! A dozen against one !" 

"I could have killed him with my bare hands. I, 
alone ! I was stronger than he !" 

"But to-day you are old and I am young. Your 
body is withered, while my body is bossed with muscles 
as the night sky is with stars," Ebrahim Asif said in 
a gentle voice, while his fingers toyed with the crimson 
cord of his sword, an action the significance of which 
was not lost on the older man. 

And so he smiled. 

"It is thus," he asked, "your wish to marry my 
daughter?" 

"Yes." 

"But there is the ancient enmity between Red 
Village and White" 

"Over a potful of stinking khirli fish. I know." 
Ebrahim Asif waved a great, hairy hand. "But there 
will be no more babbling and jabbering and foolish 
quarreling after I have married your daughter. I am 
my late father s only son, and she " negligently, with 
his thumb on which shone a star sapphire set in crude 
silver, he pointed at the curtain where she stood "she 
is your only child. Let peace be the dowry of our 
wedding, peace between your village and mine, a for 
getting of ancient hatreds, a splitting of future profits. 
Let us put aside the old enmities as a clean man puts 
aside soiled linen. In the future we shall divide the 
khirli catch evenly between your people and mine." 

Yar Zaddiq laughed in his throat. 

"Ahee!" he cried. "It is I who gives all the dowry. 
And what will you give, young Chief?" 

"I?" Ebrahim Asif raised an eyebrow. "Where 
hate has died, no room is needed to wield a sword. 
Where strength goes to the making of pea:e, no vio- 



THE RIVER OF HATE 89 

lence is needed to strike a dagger blow. Where quar 
rel is buried, no fertilizer is needed with which to 
grow friendship. But I am an honest man ! I shall 
make the bargain even, so that nobody may complain 
and that none of your people may say that you are 
unwise. Your daughter shall be mine ! Half the khirli 
catch shall be my people s. And I, on my part, shall 
lend to your people the help of wisdom which I learned 
amongst the Afghans. And after your death which 
Allah grant be not for many years I shall rule both 
villages." 

He rose and bowed with grave courtesy. 

"I am an impatient man," he went on. "My heart 
plays with my passion. Let the wedding be the next 
time I set foot in the Red Village. Come. Give oath." 

He stood still and looked at Yar Zaddiq who, too, 
had risen. For several seconds, the older man did 
not speak. His stubborn resolve that never, as long 
as he was alive, should Ebrahim Asif marry his daugh 
ter, that never, until the end of time, should his people 
cede to the White Village one tenth, not one hundredth 
part of the fishing rights which were theirs according 
to the ancient law, stood firm ; but his opponent s equal 
resolve hacked at his faith like a dagger. 

"Give oath!" repeated the other, touching the hilt 
of his sword, and then Yar Zaddiq spoke. 

"You shall wed my daughter the next time you set 
foot in the Red Village," he said solemnly. "I swear 
it upon the Koran !" 

But Ebrahim grinned boyishly. 

"And yet I have heard," he said very gently, "that 
you men of the older generation, converted to Islam at 
the point of the sword, are not the stout Moslems you 
claim to be. Thus swear by the gods of our people, 



90 ALIEN SOULS 

our own people! Swear by the ancient gods of the 
Kafiri!" 

And again he toyed with his sword, and again the 
old chief, a great bitterness bubbling in his words 
for the Moslem oath meant nothing to him swore that 
the next time Ebrahim set foot in the Red Village, 
he should wed Kurjan. By Ogun, god of sunshine, 
he gave oath, and by the three thunder gods ; by Wog- 
gun, the god of the mid-week, and by Khanli, the grim 
god on whose forehead is an ivory horn from which 
hangs the fates of men ; and finally by Gagabudh, the 
jeweled god of the mountain glens who, alone of all 
the gods, is immortal and whom even Time cannot slay. 

And Ebrahim Asif, well satisfied, went out into the 
night, courteously avoiding speech with Kurjan though, 
during the last words, she had stepped fully into the 
room. 

She looked after him. "I shall follow him," she 
said in a low voice. "I love him. He is brave and 
arrogant and cruel. There is passion in his heart and 
strength in his arms. I love him. He is brave." 

Quite suddenly, Yar Zaddiq laughed. 

"Yes, little daughter," he said. "He is brave. But " 
he burst into high-pitched, senile cackle, "it is not wis 
dom he has learned amongst the Afghans! Not wis 
dom!" 

"Except the wisdom of love!" murmured Kurjan 
as she left the house and looked into the dark. "The 
wisdom of love which is simplicity and arrogance 
and strength!" 

Love had come to her. She knew the lore of the 
Red Village and of the White, the old feud, the bitter, 
sullen enmity; but, somehow, Ebrahim Asif was neither 
of the Red Village nor of the White. He seemed to 



RIVER OF HATE 91 

her the very spirit of the land, serenely brutal, reso 
lutely pagan to the core of him, but a man ! 

"A man of men!" she said to him one whirling, 
golden afternoon when she met him amongst the 
frayed basalt ridges of the farther hills and lay pant 
ing in his crushing embrace. "A man of men with 
the bowels of compassion of a striped tiger!" 

"You have spoken true words, Dispenser of De 
lights," Ebrahim Asif agreed naively. "I am indeed 
a man such as with whom any other chief would be 
proud to have a quarrel." 

"And such as any other woman might " she 
slurred and stopped; and he held her close. 

"That, too, is the truth, little musk rose," he said 
calmly. "Often have I dragged my crackling sword 
through the bazaars of Kabul, and black eyes of Af 
ghan women and maids stared at me through close- 
meshed veils and, perhaps, there may have been 
hooded eyelids raised quickly in sign of promise and 
hope and ahee! reward. But " and with a great 
gesture he dismissed the past as if it had never ex 
isted "they passed into the dark, like gray djinns of 
evil. They left no trace, no heartache. There is only 
you in all the world, heart of my heart, and my soul 
is a carpet for your little feet. Step on it. Step on 
it with all your strength! For I am strong, strong!" 

"My father, too, is strong. And he hates you. He 
speaks of you to me though I do not reply. He 
curses you " 

"Allah!" Ebrahim Asif laughed and snapped his 
fingers. "Your father is a barren mule, bragging 
about the horse, his father. He is a toothless she- 
wolf and presently I shall set foot on the soil of the 
Red Village and claim you." 



92 ALIEN SOULS 

"When, heart o me?" she whispered. 

And the answer came low and triumphant. "To 
morrow, Crusher of Hearts !" 

And, the next day, in the White Village, the conches 
brayed and the gongs were beaten; the young men 
danced over crossed daggers, and the unmarried girls 
drowned their heads with the dowers of the hillside 
and the forest. 

For that morning, Ebrahim Asif had called the 
villagers to full durbar and had given them the good 
news. There had been uncouth rejoicing. 

Only Jarullah had struck a discordant note. 

"Beware, young Chief," he had said, following 
Ebrahim from the council hut. "Yar Zaddiq has a 
forked tongue. His father was a hyena, and his mother 
a she-devil," so he warned. 

"Possibly," the other had laughed. "But, whatever 
his ancestry, his curse has not descended to his daugh 
ter. She is a precious casket filled with the arts of 
coquetry. Too, she is strong and well turned of hip 
and breast. She will bear me stout men-children." 

And now he was in his house, adorning himself as 
becomes a bridegroom; for he had decided that he 
would wed Kurjan that very night. 

He curled and oiled his beard ; he drew broad lines 
of antimony down his eyelids ; he heightened the color 
of his lips by chewing betel ; he stained his finger tips 
crimson with henna; he wound an enormous green 
muslin turban around his fur cap; he arranged well 
the folds of his waistband ; he perfumed his body from 
head to toes with pungent oil of geranium, a small 
bottle of which had cost him a year s pay to Kabul. 

Then he threw a peach-colored silk khalat, em 
broidered with cunning Persian designs in gold thread, 



JHE RIVER OF HATE 93 

over his broad supple shoulders, picked up his sword, 
and stepped out on the threshold where Jarullah was 
squatting. 

"Jarullah," he said, "to-morrow morning I bring 
home the bride. See that a feast is being prepared. I 
myself shall bring some fat khirli fish, the pick of the 
catch. As to you, have the women roast a sheep, well 
stuffed and seasoned with condiments. In there, 
amongst the boxes I brought from Kabul, you will 
find many things, spices of India and the far countries, 
strange sauces, and exquisite Chinese confections com 
pounded of rose leaves and honey. Let the feast be 
worthy of the bride and do not steal too much." 

Jarullah overlooked the laughing insult of the young 
chief s last words. He clutched the hem of Ebrahim s 
khalat. He was terribly in earnest. 

"Take care, young master," he whined, "lest evil 
befall you. You are brave, and trusting. But neither 
with bravery nor with trust can you knit the riven, 
lying tongue of such a one as Yar Zaddiq. Take along 
a dozen stout fighting men. Do not go alone." 

Ebrahim smiled as he might at a babbling child. 

"What avail is a rotten plow to a sound ox?" he 
asked casually. "What shall talkers do when there 
are no listeners? What is the good of lies when truth 
is the greatest lie?" 

With which thoroughly mystifying words, he walked 
away in the direction of the natural bridge that linked 
the two villages. Evening was dropping. 

Steadily Ebrahim Asif kept on his way, along the 
northern bank of the river, well within sight of the 
southern, so that his peach-colored khalat flashed like 
a flame in the rays of the dying sun; and he laughed 
softly to himself at the thought that, doubtless, sharp 



94 ALIEN SOULS 

eyes in the Red Village were watching his progress 
from bowlders and trees. 

Half a mile below the natural bridge, he disappeared 
behind the shoulder of a basalt ledge that jutted out 
from the river and entered a thick clump of dwarf 
acacia. 

Five minutes later, the watchers of the Red Village 
saw once more the braggard sheen of peach-colored 
silk and Yar Zaddiq whispered a last word to the 
Kafiri who crowded at his heels as jungle wolves to 
the tiger s kill. 

Another ten minutes. The sun was hissing out in 
a sea of blood. The heavens were melting into a quiet 
night of glowing dark-violet with a pale moon peaking 
its lonely horn in the North, and up at the natural 
bridge where the two villages met, there was the sudden 
yelling of war cries, the rattle of stones, the throwing 
of thorn sticks, and, above the noise, Yar Zaddiq s 
voice stabbed out as, flanked by the pick of his fight 
ing men, he hurled himself upon the peach-colored 
khalat before its wearer had had time to cross the 
bridge. 

"When you set foot in the Red Village, Ebrahim 
Asif ! I swore it! By the Koran did I give oath, and 
by the ancient gods of the Kafiri ! When you set foot 
in the Red Village ! True I am to the double oath !" 
and his stick came down, tearing a great gash in the 
bridegroom s silken finery, brought from far Kabul. 

The men of the Red Village closed in, with exultant, 
savage shouts. 

Night had dropped, suddenly, completely, as it does 
in the tropics, with a burnous of black velvet. 

Nothing was visible except the shadowy, fantastic 
outline of a dozen human bodies balled together into 



THE RIVER OF HATE 95 

a tight knot, heaving, straining, wrestling, pulling down 
their lonely opponent as hounds pull down a stag. 

But the lonely man fought well. Time and again 
he jerked himself loose. Time and again his sword 
flashed free and tasted blood. 

Time and again he drove his assailants before him 
towards the boundary of the Red Village. 

But always, rallied by Yar Zaddiq s warring shouts, 
they hurled themselves back at him before he had a 
chance to cross the line. 

And then came the end. 

A jagged rock crashed on his head and he fell down, 
unconscious, bleeding from a dozen flesh wounds, 
curled up like a sleeping dog, his right hand across his 
forehead as if to ward off the blows of Fate. 

Yar Zaddiq bent over him. 

"You are a brave man, Ebrahim Asif," he said quite 
gently, "and doubtless you were a swashbuckler and a 
brawler in the tumult of the packed Kabul bazaars! 
Doubtless the gods have dowered your heart with 
stanch courage and your body with the strength of 
bunched muscles! But there is no wisdom in your 
soul, young Chief. Ahee! Your caution is as uncer 
tain as a Tartar s beard, as rare as wings upon a cat !" 

He laughed. 

But, with utter, dramatic suddenness, just as the 
moon stabbed down with a sharp wedge of silvery light 
that brought the features of the unconscious man into 
crass relief, his laugh changed to a howl of disappoint 
ment and rage, cracked, high-pitched and ludicrous. 

He kicked the prostrate form with all his might, 
turned, and rushed back across the bridge as fast as 
his gnarled old legs would let him, while his clansmen, 
wondering, astonished, cluttered after him. 



96 ALIEN SOULS 

Stumbling, falling, cursing, he ran through the night. 
His withered lungs beat like a hammer. But he kept 
on, along the southern bank, towards his house that 
sprang out at him with warm, golden lights. 

With his last ounce of strength he hurtled across 
the threshold and there, by the side of Kurjan, one 
arm around her waist, the other gesturing some flowery 
words of love he was whispering in her ear, sat Ebra- 
him Asif, in the ragged clothes of Babar, drenched to 
the skin, but happy, serene, supremely sure of himself. 

Languidly he looked up and greeted the old man who 
was speechless with rage and fatigue. 

"Have the women prepare me a meal," he said, "a 
khirli fish, carefully boned, and spiced with tumeric, 
also a goblet of tea, steaming hot. For it was cold 
swimming the River of Hate above the whirlpool of 
the Black Rock, and it is not right that the bridegroom 
should sit shivering at the wedding." 

Then, casually, he asked : 

"Did you by any chance kill that youth of my village 
ah Babar who changed clothes with me in the 
acacia clump below the bridge ?" 

"No no " stammered Yar Zaddiq; and Ebrahim 
Asif sighed contentedly. 

"Good, by Allah and by Allah!" he said. "There 
are the makings of a man in that youth once I shall 
have taught him the shining wisdom I learned at 
Kabul" 

And, dreamily, with Kurjan s head on his shoulder, 
he looked through the open door where the night was 
draping the River of Hate in her trailing cloak of 
purple and black. 



THE SOUL OF A TURK 

THAT night, with no hatred in his heart but with a 
Moslem s implacable logic guiding his hand, he killed 
the Prussian drill sergeant who, scarlet tarbush on 
yellow-curled, flat-backed skull, was breveted as major 
to his regiment, the Seventeenth Turkish Infantry. 

His comrades saw him creep into the tattered, bell- 
shaped tent where the Prussian was sleeping the sleep 
of utter exhaustion. They heard the tragic crack 
of the shot, and saw him come out again smoking 
revolver in his right hand. Calmly squatting on their 
haunches, they watched him go to the commissary, 
help himself to slabs of spongy, gray bread, dried 
apricot paste, and a bundle of yellow Latakia tobacco 
leaves, fill his water canteen, and take the road toward 
the giant breast of the Anatolian mountains, studded 
here and there with small, bistre-red farms, like 
brooches clasping a greenish-black garment. 

"Allah s Peace on you, brother Moslems!" he said 
piously, turning, the fingers of his left hand opening 
like the sticks of a fan, then closing them again, to 
show the inevitability of what he had done. 

"And on you Peace, Mehmet el-Touati !" came their 
mumbled reply, tainted by just a shade of envy, be 
cause they told themselves that soon Mehmet el-Touati 
would be in his own country while their homes were 
far in the South and West, and they did not know the 
roads. 

97 



98 ALIEN SOULS 

They were neither astonished, nor shocked. They 
understood him, as he understood them. 

For, like himself, they were simple Turkish peas 
ants, bearded, middle-aged, patient, slightly rheumy, 
who had been drafted into the army and thrown into 
the frothy, blood-stained cauldroji of European his 
tory in the making, by the time honored process of a 
green-turbaned priest rising one Friday morning in 
the mosque pulpit and declaring with melodious unc 
tion that the Russian was clamoring at the outer 
door of the Osmanli house, and that Islam was in 
danger. 

The Russian by Allah- and by Allah, but they knew 
him of old ! 

He would ride over their fields, over the sown and 
the fallow. He would cut down the peach trees. He 
would pollute their mosques, their harems, and their 
wells. He would stable his horses in their cypress- 
shaded graveyards. He would enslave the women, 
kill the little children, and send the red flame licking 
over byre and barn thatch. 

Therefore : 

Jehad! Ko\y War! Kill for the Faith and the 
blessed Messenger Mohammed! 

Thus, uncomplaining, ox-eyed, they had pressed! 
their wives and their children to hairy, massive chests, 
had adjusted the rawhide straps of their sandals, had 
trooped to district military headquarters, had been 
fitted into nondescript, chafing, buckram-stiffened uni 
forms, had been given excellent German rifles, 
wretched food, brackish water; and had trudged along 
the tilting roads of stony, bleak Anatolia. 

Moslems, peasants, pawns they had gone forth, 



THE SOUL OF A TURK 99 

leaving their all behind, stabbed on the horns of Fate ; 
with no Red Cross, no doctors, no ambulances, to look 
after their wounded or to ease the last agonies of their 
dying; with sleek, furtive-eyed Levantine government 
clerks stealing the pittance which the war office allowed 
for the sustenance of the women and children and 
feeble old men who tilled the fields and garnered 
meagre crops with their puny arms while the strong, 
the lusty, the bearded, were away battling for the 
Faith; with none to praise their patriotism or sing 
epic paeans to the glory of their matter-of-fact courage ; 
with neither flags waving nor brasses blaring; with 
no printed or spoken public opinion to tell them that 
they were doing right, that they were heroes; with 
nobody back home to send them encouragement or com 
forts or pitiful little luxuries. 

They had gone forth, unimaginative, unenthusiastic, 
to kill as a matter of duty, a sending of Kismet. 

For Islam was in danger. The Russian was clamor 
ing at the outer gate, beyond Erzeroum. 

Turks, they. Cannon fodder. Bloody dung to 
mulch the fields of ambition. 

Had come long months of fighting and marching 
and fighting again. Victories, soberly accepted. More 
marching, through a hot, sad land speckled with purple 
shadows. 

And they had wondered a little, and one day Mehmet 
el-Touati, as spokesman of his company, had asked a 
question of his colonel, Moustaffa Sheffket Bey, who, 
in time of peace, was the civilian Pasha of his native 
district. 

The colonel had smiled through white, even teeth. 

"Yes, Mehmet el-Touati," he had replied. "We are 
going South." 



TOO ALIEN SOULS 

"But Russia is in the North, Effendina, beyond the 
snow range." 

"I know. But have you ever hunted?" 

"Often, Effendina." 

"Good. You stalk deer against the wind, don t 
you, so that it may not scent you and bolt ?" 

"Yes, Effendina." 

"It is the same with warfare, with hunting men. 
We are traveling South for a while. We do not 
want the Russian to smell the Turkish scent." 

"But " Mehmet el-Touati had pointed at a corpse 
that lay curled up in the middle of the road, like a dog 
asleep in the sun. "These people are not " 

"No. They are not Russians. They are the Arme 
nian jackals who accompany the Russian lion in search 
of carrion. They are the Russian s allies. They, too, 
are the enemies of the Faith. Kill them. Kill the 
jackals first. Presently, with the help of Allah, the 
All-Merciful, we shall nail the lion s pelt to the door of 
our house." 

"AlhamduUllah!" 

He, and the others, had accepted the explanation. 
They had marched South. They had fallen on the 
Armenian villages with torch and rope and scimitar. 
They had killed. 

It was an order. 

Many of his regiment died. Others took their 
places, Turkish peasants like himself, middle aged, 
bearded, solemn but from districts farther South and 
West. 

They, too, had heard that Islam was in danger, 
that the Russian was at the door. 

Came more fighting, through many, weary months. 
Then a defeat, a rout, a debacle; the ground littered 



THE SOUL OF A TURK 101 

with their dead and dying, amongst them the colonel 
of the Seventeenth, Moustaffa Sheffket Bey; and talk 
of treason in exalted places, of a renegade Saloniki 
Jew by the name of Enver Bey throttling the ancient 
Osmanli Empire and handing it over, tied hand and 
foot, to a Potsdam usurper. 

Greeks and Syrians and Druses had spread the 
hushed, bitter tale through the ranks of the retreating 
army. But the grave Turkish peasant soldiers had 
slowly shaken their heads. 

Leaky-tongued babble, that! 

They had never heard of either Enver Bey or the 
Potsdam usurper. Their very names were unknown 
to them. They were fighting because Islam was in 
danger. 

Had not the green-turbaned priests told them so? 

They had been defeated. What of it? That, too, 
was Fate Fate, which comes out of the dark, like a 
blind camel, with no warning, no jingling of bells. 

At first they had won, and presently they would win 
again. They would conquer as of old. It was so 
written. 

They would return to their quiet, sleepy villages and 
once more till the fields. Once more they would 
harrow on the strips of fallow, shouting to their 
clumsy, humped oxen. Once more they would hear 
the creaking song of the water wheels, the chant of 
the mullahs calling the Faithful to prayer, and the 
drowsy zumming of the honey bees. Once more, on 
Friday, the day of rest of all God s creatures, they 
would stroll out with their women and children into 
the sloping hills and smoke their pipes and eat their 
food and sip their coffee and licorice water beneath 
the twinkling of the golden crab apples that clustered 



102 ALIEN SOULS 

high up in the hedges and the greenish elderberries on 
their thick, purple-blue stalks. 

Meanwhile more fighting, marching, suffering. 

Torch and rope and scimitar had done the work. 
The Armenians had died by the thousands. 

The land was a reeking shambles. 

And what of the Russian? 

With the Armenians strung up in front of their 
own houses, or buried in shallow graves, there was 
only the Russian left to fight. 

And he did fight, with long-range guns and massed 
machine-gun fire and airplanes and blazing white shells 
that screamed death from afar. 

Daily he took toll, gave toll. 

"But," said Mehmet el-Touati, voicing the slug 
gish, gray doubts of the Seventeenth Infantry which, 
in its turn, voiced the doubts of the army "why is 
the Russian here, in the South? How did he come 
down from behind the snow ramparts of the Caucasus 
and is facing us here, in the flat lands, the yellow 
lands, the fertile lands? Also, I fought the Russian, 
twenty, thirty years ago, when I was a youth, with 
no gray in my hair and never a crack in my heart. 
Then the Russian was heavy and bearded and dressed 
in green. Now he is tall and lithe and slim and ruddy 
of skin and " he pointed at an English prisoner 
"dressed in khaki brown. I cannot understand it. Is 
there then truth in the bazaar babble that treason has 
crept into the Osmanli house on silent, tmclean feet ?" 

Thus he spoke to the new colonel of the Seventeenth, 
Yakub Lahada Bey. 

The latter was a monocled, mustached dandy from 
Stamboul, who had learned how to ogle and speak 



THE SOUL OF A TURK 103 

German and misquote Nietzsche and drink beer in the 
Berlin academy of war. Too, he had learned, nor 
badly, certain rudiments of strategy and tactics. But 
he had paid a bitter price for his lessons. For he had 
forgotten the simple, naive decencies of his native 
land, the one eternal wisdom of the Koran which 
says that all Moslems are brothers, equal. 

He dropped his eyeglass, twirled his mustache, 
and turned on Mehmet et-Touati with a snarl. 

"Shut up, son of a dog with a dog s heart," he 
cried. "Get back or " 

He lifted his riding crop significantly, and Mehmet 
el-Touati salaamed and walked away. He shrugged 
his shoulders. A beating from a master and a step in 
the mud, he said to himself, were not things one should 
consider in times of stress. Nor did he mind the kill 
ing, the dying, the wounds, the bleeding toes, the 
wretched food. 

But what of Islam? What of the Russian? What 
of treason ? 

Still, the priests had told them that Islam was in 
danger, that they must fight. And they did. Though 
not as well as before. 

For doubt had entered their hearts. 

Came another defeat; another retreat; another dis 
grace hushed up, followed by hectic clamorings from 
Stamboul, the seat of the Caliph, the Commander of 
the Faithful, and thunderous, choleric, dragooning or 
ders zumming South from Berlin along the telegraph 
wires. 

Then, one day, a red-faced, blue-eyed, white-mus- 
tached, spectacled giant, eagle-topped silver helmet on 
bullet head, stout chest ablaze with medals and ribbons, 
rode into headquarters camp and addressed the sol- 



104 ALIEN SOULS 

diers, who were lined up for parade review, in halting 
Turkish with a strange, guttural accent. 

Mehmet el-Touati did not understand the whole of 
the harangue. But he caught a word here and there : 
about Islam being in danger, and the Russian at the 
door; too, something about a great Emperor in the 
North, Wilhelm by name, who, like themselves, was a 
good Moslem and coming to their rescue. 

Thus Mehmet el-Touati cheered until he was hoarse. 
So did the others. And hereafter foreigners Prus 
sians, they called themselves took the places of the 
Osmanlis as officers and drill sergeants in many of 
the regiments, including the Seventeenth. They said 
that they were Moslems which was odd, considering 
that their habits and customs were different from 
those of the Turks. But said the priests they be 
longed to a different sect, and what did that matter in 
the eyes of Allah, the All-Knowing? 

On and away, then ! 

Kill, kill for the Faith! 

For days at a time they were loaded on flat, stink 
ing cattle cars pulled by wheezy, rickety, sooty en 
gines, until they lost all ideas as to direction and time 
and distance. East they were shipped and fought, 
losing half their effectives, quickly replaced by raw 
village levies, until the Seventeenth was like a kaleido 
scope of all the many provinces of the Turkish 
Empire, with Mehmet el-Touati the last surviving 
soldier of the Anatolian mountain district in his com 
pany. 

Again they were loaded on flat cars, then unloaded, 
rushed into battle, bled white. Back on the cars once 
more South, East, North, West! 

The Russian Mehmet el-Touati wondered was he 



THE SOUL OF A TURK 105 

then all around themf? Was he attacking the house of 
the Osmanli from all sides ? 

Hard, hard Fate ! But fight for the Faith ! Islam 
was in danger and on, on, along the never-ending 
road of suffering and death ! 

Followed days of comparative quiet while the en 
gines rushed their armed freight to the North; and 
Mehmet el-Touati, who had not complained when the 
food was wormy and the water thick with greenish 
slime, who had not complained when bits of shrapnel 
had lacerated his left arm and when a brutal German 
student-doctor had treated the wound, with no anes 
thetics, no drugs, with just his dirty fingers and dirtier 
scalpel Mehmet el-Touati complained to the Prussian 
officer in charge of his company while they were camp 
ing on both sides of the railroad track. 

"Bimbashi!" he said, salaaming with outstretched 
hands. "We are clean men, being Moslems. There is 
no water with which to make our proper ablutions be 
fore prayer." 

"Schnauze halt en, verdammter Schweinehund !" 
came the reply, accompanied by the supreme Teutonic 
argument : kicks and cuffs ; and a detailed account in 
halting, guttural Turkish of what he, himself, brevet- 
major Gottlieb Kriiger, thought of the Moslem reli 
gion, including its ablutions and prayers. 

"Go and make your ablutions in " 

Then a frightful, brutal obscenity, and the soldiers 
who had accompanied Mehmet el-Touati drew back a 
little. They questioned each other with their eyes. 
They were like savage beasts of prey, about to leap. 

Bashi byouk, begh; ayaghi byouk, tchobar " 
purred one of them, in soft, feline, minatory Turkish. 

A knife flashed free. 



106 ALIEN SOULS 

The Prussian paled beneath his tan. . . . 

A tight, tense moment of danger. A little moment, 
the result of a deed brutal, though insignificant, ex 
cept in the final analysis of national psychology that 
might have spread into gigantic, fuliginous conflagra 
tion, that might have sent the whole German-Turk 
ish card house into a pitful, smoldering heap of 
ruins ! 

But a Turkish staff officer, fat, pompous, good nat- 
ured, his eyes red and swollen with too much hasheesh 
smoking, played the part of the deus ex machina. He 
stepped quickly between the Prussian and the Turks 
and talked to them in a gentle, soothing singsong, 
winding up with the old slogan, the old fetish, the 
old lie: 

"Patience, brother Moslems! Patience and a stout 
heart ! For Islam is in danger ! The Russian is at the 
door!" 

Yet, deep in the heart of Mehmet el-Touati, deep 
in the hearts of the simple peasant soldiers, doubt 
grew, and a terrible feeling of insecurity. 

It was not alone that the Russian seemed to have 
many allies Armenians yesterday, to-day Arabs and 
Syrians, to-morrow Greeks and Druses and Persians. 
All that could be explained, was explained, by the 
green-turbaned priests who accompanied the army. 
But they had been told that the Emperor of the North 
who was coming to their rescue was a Moslem, like 
themselves. Why then did these Prussian officers 
for the case of brevet-major Gottlieb Kriiger was not 
an isolated one kick and curse their brother Moslems, 
the Turks? Why did they spit on Islam, the ancient 
Faith, their own Faith? 

Mehmet el-Touati shrugged his shoulders resignedly. 



THE SOUL OF A TURK 107 

The Russians must be beaten. Nothing else mat 
tered. So, half an hour later, with his company, he 
was entrained once more and under way, toward the 
East this time, until one day the railroad tracks ended 
suddenly in a disconsolate, pathetic mixture of red- 
hot sand, twisted steel, and crumbling concrete. 

They marched, horse, foot, and the guns, North, 
Northwest. 

"Where to?" ran the question from regiment to 
regiment. 

Then the answer: 

"To Russia!" 

And cheers. For, while they had heard vaguely of 
England and France and America, Russia alone ex 
pressed to them all they hated and feared; and, grad 
ually, their doubts and misgivings disappeared as time 
and again they passed long columns of prisoners in 
the familiar bottle-green of the Tsar s soldiery, and 
as day after day the road tilted higher and the sharp 
scent of the foot hills boomed down on the wings of 
the morning wind and the ragged crags of Anatolia 
limned ghostly out of the purplish-gray welter. 

Mehmet el-Touati was kept busy explaining to the 
men in his company, Southern and Western Turks 
all but himself. 

"It s the North," he said. "It s my own country. 
Russia is over yonder " sweeping a hairy, brown 
hand toward the hills that rolled down in immense, 
overlapping planes, blue and orchid and olive green, 
while the high horizon was etched with the lacy finials 
of spruce and fir and dwarf oak. 

"My own country," he went on. "I can smell it, 
feel it. My heart is heavy with longing." 

A terrible nostalgia was in his soul. Too, day after 



io8 ALIEN SOULS 

day, as the weeks of fighting had grown into the drab, 
sad cycle of years, he felt more old and lonely and 
tired. There was something ludicrously pathetic, 
something almost tragic, in the picture of this middle 
aged, bearded, rheumy peasant shouldering a musket 
and fighting and killing. 

But he did not complain, not even in his own heart. 
He marched on, patient, stolid. First there must be 
a victory. The Russian must be vanquished, the house 
of the Osmanli made safe. 

Then peace and the creaking of the water wheels, 
the chant of the mullahs, the happy laughter of the 
little children playing in the sun. 

By this time, since the roads were narrow, mere 
trails made by stray cattle and wild beasts, the army 
corps had split into a number of columns, each com 
posed of a half company with its complement of light 
mountain guns, taken into pieces and carried on the 
backs of small, mouse-colored mules; and the half 
company to which Mehmet el-Touati belonged was the 
rearmost column, winding along hot, jagged roads 
where occasional thickets threw fleeting moments of 
shade, up steep hillsides where thick, purplish-gold sun 
shafts cleft the black rags of the fir trees, through 
valleys sweating with brassy, merciless heat, past fields 
of young corn that spread beneath the pigeon-blue sky 
like dull, sultry summer dreams. 

On, while their feet chafed and bled, while the 
knapsacks cut their shoulders, and the rifles felt like 
hundredweights ! 

A few of the Seventeenth, Kurdish tribesmen 
mostly, nomads drafted on the way from amongst the 
black felt tents, had tried to desert. 



THE SOUL OF A TURK 109 

Why fight any more, had been their sneering com 
ment, since their pockets were lined with Syrian and 
Armenian gold and they had their fill of Syrian and 
Armenian blood? 

So they had snapped their fingers derisively and had 
glided into the night shadows like ghosts, relying on 
the hereditary, kindly negligence of their Osmanli 
overlord. But they had reckoned without the fact that 
the latter was no longer master in his own house 
that the brevet-major of the company was a Prussian 
drill sergeant, reared and trained with the Prussian 
ramrod, the Prussian code. 

"Riicksichtslos inconsiderate of everything except 
duty !" was his watchword, and his slogan was : 

"I shall make an example for the sake of disci 
pline!" 

He had halted the marching column he drove them 
afterwards to make up for the time he had lost 
until the deserters, one by one, had been recaptured, 
courtmartialed, sentenced to death. 

The melancholy Turkish staff officer who was at 
tached to the Seventeenth to act as a sort of philo 
sophic, good-natured yeast, had tried to argue the 
point, to reason; had said that Brevet-Major Kriiger 
was making a slight error, that he did not know these 
people. 

"They are like homing birds, these tribesmen," he 
had said. "If a few of them want to go, let them. We 
can always get more, and you cannot catch the winds 
of heaven with your bare hands. These deserters are 
Kurds, nomads., unreliable cattle, while the bulk of 
the army is Turkish. You know yourself that the real 
Turk is patient and obedient." 

"Makes no difference! Schlechte Beispiele verder- 



no ALIEN SOULS 

ben gute Sit ten bad examples spoil good morals! If 
we let the Kurds do what they please, some day, 
when we least expect it, these stolid Turks of yours 
will take the bit between their teeth, and then there ll 
be the devil to pay ! No ! I am a Prussian. I will have 
discipline. Discipline is going to win this war. I 
shall make an example of these fellows !" 

Then a firing squad. Blood stippling the dusty 
ground. 

And Gottlieb Kriiger was right. Perhaps, as the 
months dragged along on weary, bleeding feet and 
there was no end to suffering and dying, it was his 
slogan of discipline with its obbligato accompaniment 
of courtmartial and death which kept the Seventeenth 
as a fighting unit fully as much as the ancient fear and 
hatred of the Russian. 

Then, one day, Mehmet el-Touati overheard a few 
words not meant for his ear; and, with a suddenness 
that to a Westerner would have seemed dramatic, even 
providential, but that to him, Turk, Moslem, was 
merely a prosy sending of Kismet to be accepted as 
such and used, a veil slipped from his eyes and slowly, 
in his grinding, bovine mind, he dovetailed what he 
overheard into relationship with himself, his own life, 
his past and present and future. 

It was late in the afternoon and the company was 
camping in a little grove, spotted with purple lilac 
trees and walled in with the glowing pink of the horse- 
chestnut. The soldiers had loosened the collars of 
their tunics and lay stretched in the checkered, pleas 
ant shade, sipping quickly brewed coffee, smoking 
acrid Latakia tobacco, talking of home, and Mehmet 
el-Touati, on the way to a little spring to fill his 
water canteen, happened to pass the tent where the 



THE SOUL OF A TURK 

Prussian brevet-major was sharing the contents of his 
brandy flask with the Turkish staff officer. 

As he passed, a few words drifted through the tent 
flap, flew out on the pinions of Fate, buffeted against 
the stolid mind of Mehmet el-Touati with almost phys 
ical impact caused him to tremble a little, then to 
drop to the ground, to creep close, to listen, tensely, 
with breath sucked in, lungs beating like trip hammers. 

"Russia is smashed!" the Prussian was saying in 
his halting, guttural Turkish. "The Russians have 
signed a peace treaty with us, with Austria, with Bul 
garia, with your country Turkey. There ll be a little 
desultory border fighting but all danger is past. The 
Russian is out of the running." 

"You are sure of that ?" asked the other. 

"Absolutely. Remember the despatches I received 
this morning?" 

"Yes." 

"They were from headquarters. The peace treaty 
at Brest-Litovsk had been signed. Russia is out of 
the running as harmless as a bear with his teeth and 
claws drawn. And now " 

"And now?" breathed the staff officer. 

"And now?" came the silent echo in Mehmet el- 
Touati s heart, as he glued his ear against the tent. 

"And now you Turks are going to see some real 
fighting. Of course I am only guessing. But I lay 
you long odds that your crack troops like this regi 
ment, the Seventeenth are going to be sent to the 
Western front, brigaded with Prussians and used 
against the French and British. Or perhaps they ll 
be sent to Albania to fight with the Austrians against 
the Italians, or to Macedonia to stiffen the Bulgarians 
a little." 



H2 ALIEN SOULS 

"You mean to say the war is not over with the 
Russian beaten?" asked the Turkish staff officer. 

"Your war ? Yes. It is over. But our war is not ! 
And you are going to fight for us, my friend and 
you are going to toe the mark and fight well. For " 
he laughed unpleasantly, "remember our Prussian 
slogan Discipline! Discipline!" 

Mehmet el-Touati crept away, into the shadow of 
a horse-chestnut tree, to think. But he did not have 
to think long. 

Only one fact stood out: the Russian was beaten; 
Islam was safe and the house of the Osmanli. 

Nothing else mattered. 

The West front? Albania? Macedonia? 

The French and British and Italians? 

No, no! He shook his head. He knew nothing 
about them. They were not in his life, his world. 
Russia was beaten. Islam was safe, and he had done 
his duty, and now he must go home and look after 
his fields and his wife and his children. They had 
been neglected so long. 

He must go soon. To-day. This very night. For 
here he was in the foot hills of his own country, 
where he knew the roads. 

But how ? 

He remembered the Kurds who had tried to desert^ 
who had been caught, courtmartialed, shot, by orders 
of 

Yes ! By orders of the Prussian, the foreigner ! 

The Turkish staff officer would not care. He would 
argue that one man more or less in the company was 
not worth the trouble of halting the column, of search 
ing the surrounding valleys and mountains with a fine- 
tooth comb. 



THE SOUL OF A JURK u 3 

Thus there was just one way 

And so, that night, with no hatred in his heart but 
with a Moslem s implacable logic guiding his hand, 
Mehmet el-Touati killed the Prussian officer and took 
the road toward his own country. 



MORITURI 

(An Episode of the Balkan War) 

DRAMATIS PERSONS 
CAPTAIN BORIS PLOTKINE, Third Bulgarian Infantry. 

CAPTAIN MEMET ABDERRAMANN TOUATI, First Turk 
ish Cavalry. 

LANCE-CORPORAL NADJ HANIECH, Second Battery 
Turkish Horse Gunners. 

SCENE : Represents a battlefield in Macedonia. It 
is the early dawn of morning. The sky is pink and 
silver and orange, and as far as the eye can see, there 
are the shadowy, grim outlines of dead soldiers, Turks 
and Bulgarians, dead horses, broken wheels and dis 
mounted gun-limbers. A thick, humid haze rises from 
the slimy ground, and there is the acrid smell of battle, 
blood and powder and putrescence and dirt. In the 
far distance are heard the crunching wheels of commis 
sariat wagons, the heavy grumble of artillery, and once 
in a while the sharp hissing of musketry fire. 

TIME: November, 1912. 

DISCOVERED: Plotkine and Touati, both badly 

wounded. 

114 



MORITURI 115 

PLOTKINE (writhing on the ground; moaning) 
Oh, Holy Kyrill and all the dear Saints this is in 
sufferable. I can t stand it. 

TOUATI (Slowly and painfully turning his head in the 

direction of Plotkine) 
You ll have to stand it, comrade. 

PLOTKINE 
Who s there? a friend? 

TOUATI 

No. I am of the First Turkish Cavalry. I am Cap 
tain but never mind my name. I do not suppose a 
ceremonious introduction is necessary under the cir 
cumstances. 

PLOTKINE 
Come over and give a chap a bit of help, will you? 

TOUATI 
I am awfully sorry, but . . . 

PLOTKINE (interrupting} 

Oh, you re wounded yourself, are you? Can you 
move? 

TOUATI 

Not as much as I d like to. A piece of shrapnel 
struck me, and one of my legs is shattered it s only 
just making a bluff at hanging together by a shred of 
skin. 

PLOTKINE 

I got mine through the chest right chest. (Short 
pause.) You talk jolly good Bulgarian. (Another 
pause. ) I say, comrade, there must be a Turkish am 
bulance corps kicking about here somewhere. I can t 



ii6 ALIEN SOULS 

speak a word of Turkish and talking hurts me so 
my chest you know. Don t you think you could call 
them? 

TOUATI 

Quite unnecessary, captain. There s nobody here, 
nobody who could help us. The column marched away 
long ago. You see, we two are lying in a sort of hole 
in the ground. That s why they didn t notice us. Oh, 
well Allah s will 

PLOTKINE (with sudden, helpless fury) 
God s curse on it, so we are lost what? help 
less? 

TOUATI 
Yes, captain. You re perfectly right. 

PLOTKINE (after a short pause) 
But couldn t we help each other ? somehow ? 

TOUATI 

I don t think I can do a thing. I am very weak, 
you know. I ve lost so much blood. You see, it took 
me nearly all night to crawl six feet a little bit away 
from my brother 

PLOTKINE 
From your brother ? 

TOUATI (passionless) 

Yes. He s dead, too. He was such a nice, Brave 
young lad. But you see, this confounded heat and 
then this wretched humidity and so he s been getting 
rather smelly. Nothing against him, you know, noth 
ing against him. But I had to move and you see, it 
took me all night crawling crawling 



MORITURI 117 

PLOTKINE 

And I can t move at all, not at all. Even when I 
try to breathe hard, the air whistles through my lungs 
as if there s a draft somewhere in my chest. And a 
ton of rock seems to lie on my legs. I can t turn my 
head. I can t see you. Can you see me? 

TOUATI 
Oh, yes. I am looking at you. 

PLOTKINE 

Then tell me: how far distant are we from each 
other? 

TOUATI 

I should judge about three yards. But for all it 
would help you or me it might as well be three thou 
sand miles. 

(Both are silent for several minutes; Plotkine sighs.) 

PLOTKINE 
I am hungry. Got anything to eat about you? 

TOUATI 

Yes. A few dried dates. Here, look out. I ll 
throw them over so that you can reach them with 
your left hand. (He throws over a handful of dried 
dates to Plotkine, who takes them and eats.) 

PLOTKINE (between bites) 

Thanks awfully. (Laughs.) You aim better than 
did your artillery at the Tschataldja lines. 

TOUATI (very stiffly) 
I beg your pardon. 
(Long silence.) 



n8 ALIEN SOULS 

PLOTKINE 
So you think there s no hope for us, captain. 

TOUATI 
Only a miracle would help us. 

PLOTKINE 
I shall pray to my Patron Saint. 

TOUATI 

Well if it gives you any pleasure 

(Plotkine prays fervently for a few minutes. Then 
there is complete silence. They do not exchange a word 
for over half an hour.) 

PLOTKINE (suddenly) 
Ho there, comrade ! Are you dead already? 

TOUATI 
No, not yet. 

PLOTKINE 
It must be getting on towards noon. 

TOUATI 

I think you re mistaken. It s hardly half an hour 
since I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance 
and that was early in the morning. 

PLOTKINE 

Which one of us is going to cash in first, do you 
think? 

TOUATI 

I think I ll go out first. You see, the chances are 
that I ll get gangrene very soon now. 



MORITURI 119 

PLOTKINE (after a short silence) 
I say, captain. You speak very excellent Bulgarian. 
Where did you learn it ? 

TOUATI 

I? Oh, I lived in Sofia for two years studied 
there at the Polytechnicon. 

PLOTKINE (excited) 

You don t say so ! Then you must know Professor 
Nyachnioff ? 

TOUATI 
I certainly do. 

PLOTKINE 

Isn t that odd? You know, I married his daughter 
little Lisaveta. 

TOUATI 

Oh, I remember her. I saw her once when I called 
on her father. She was a very charming girl. 

PLOTKINE 

Yes, isn t she? She is an angel, I tell you. And 
how she loves me you ve no idea, captain. If she 
knew that I m lying here, dying why, the poor little 
kiddie she d cry her eyes out I tell you, she d kill 
herself. 

TOUATI (a little doubtful) 
You think so? 

PLOTKINE (angry) 

Don t you believe it? I tell you she ll kill herself 
when she reads my name in the list of those killed in 
battle. You ll see. 



120 ALIEN SOULS 

TOUATI (with a laugh) 

Pardon, comrade, but I don t think I ll see. Also, 
I don t think we ll be in the list of casualties. We ll 
be amongst those who are reported missing ; don t you 
think so? 

PLOTKINE 

God ! that s right. The poor little girl that ll make 
it worse for her. There she ll go on hoping for months 
and months. (He cries.) 

TOUATI 
Did that relieve your feelings, captain? 

PLOTKINE 

Oh, my body just feels paralyzed. I tell you, I 
can t even move my fingers any more. Damn this 
war! What are we fighting about, anyway? Just 
because you confounded Turks insist on having Mace 
donia. 

TOUATI 
No because you are trying to steal it from us, 

PLOTKINE 

Yes as you wish. Makes no difference now. It s 
all the same. Gracious Heavens, Tsar Ferdinand had 
enough territory, God knows. What does he waat 
this infernal desert for? I tell you, when I was a 
child, hopping and playing about the ryefields, I had 
no idea I d have to die here, in this desert. And poor 
little Lisaveta will also die she loves me so much, 
the dear little girl. (Pause.) Why, there is no sense 
in all this this fighting this dying Tell me, where 
is the sense of all this ? 



MORITURI 121 

TOUATI 

You Christians are forever asking questions, and 
then you either get no answer at all, or you get sev 
eral answers to the same question which is worse. 
We have war well and we are soldiers and so of 
course we die. What s there extraordinary about 
that? 

PLOTKINE 

Yes but we die because of this confounded Mace 
donia this damned desert where nothing grows 

TOUATI (grimly) 

Well, captain, even a desert will grow wheat if you 
give it enough manure and just look about you; 
look at yourself and at me smell our dead comrades. 
Oh, there ll be enough manure, enough stinking dung 
for a good, rich crop. (Laughs,) Everything for 
which one dies is good. And then, there are so 
many human beings in this world. What do we 
count, you and I ? Just think how many millions will 
come after us. 

PLOTKINE 

I have no children. And what possible good is it 
to Bulgaria if I die here? The priests will babble as 
before, the tschinovniks will steal as before and the 
comrades who return home will brag about their he 
roic deeds and their decorations. Nobody will think 
of me. My parents are dead and Lisaveta will kill 
herself 

TOUATI 

Yes, yes, she ll kill herself. But, captain, now s 
your time to think of your former life, to think of all 
life meant to you, of all you ve accomplished 



122 ALIEN SOULS 

PLOTKINE (with a grim laugh) 
What? I should think of what my life meant to 
me? Of my advancement in the army, I suppose, 
what? new uniforms parties given for Lisaveta 
an accolade by Tsar Ferdinand. Why, it s all over, 
man and when I think of it, it seems all so horribly 
prosy, so horribly cheap and indifferent. Does it con 
sole you to think about your old life? 

TOUATI 

Yes. I think that I ve always done my duty, in 
life and in death. Also I ve obeyed my Faith. That s 
enough. 

PLOTKINE (sneering) 

All for Turkey. All for the Crescent, what? 

TOUATI (quietly) 

No. All for myself. If I learned anything, it was 
for myself. If I achieved anything, it was for my 
self. And thus it was for Turkey and for my Faith, 
even thus. What more could I do? 

PLOTKINE 
And your wife? 

TOUATI 

The day I left for this war, I asked her to buy her 
widow-dress. 

PLOTKINE 

Do you think she ll kill herself like Lisaveta? 

TOUATI 

No. She ll marry again. You see, we have no 
children. And now so many of us Turks died m this 
war so we need more children, more sons to fight 



MORITURI 123 

again a few years hence to die again perhaps to 
win 

PLOTKINE 
Oh, you wish to reconquer what you have lost? 

TOUATI 
Of course. 

PLOTKINE 

Yes, I see; you love your country. And I love 
mine. But must we die on the battlefield to prove our 
love? 

TOUATI 
It s the best proof. 

PLOTKINE 
No. It s the last proof. 

TOUATI 

The last proof only for ourselves. There are others 
will come after us. 

PLOTKINE (suddenly, with a loud, gurgling voice) 
Oh, Mary, Mother of Jesus, pray (He dies.) 

TOUATI (calls) 

Oh, captain, captain (Pause.) Oh, he s dead. 
I knew when he asked me, that he d go out before I 
would. A shot through the chest of course. But 
why should I have told him ? (Smiles.) And I don t 
think Lisaveta will kill herself. (Pause.) After all, 
it s quite indifferent one way or the other. (Laughs.) 
Queer people, these Christians 

(Lance-Corporal Nadj Haniech appears from the 
distance; Touati hears his footsteps, and calls to him.) 



124 ALIEN SOULS 

TOUATI 

Ho, there! 

HANIECH (running toward him) 
Coming, coming 

TOUATI (looking up at him) 

No use trying to get me to the hospital, corporal. 
But I am suffering. I also would like to smoke got 
a cigarette about you? 

HANIECH 

Yes, captain. (He gives a cigarette to Touati and 
lights it.) 

TOUATI (smoking) 

Just wait until I ve finished my smoke and then 
(points to Haniech s revolver) you don t mind, do 
you? You see, I am suffering and I can t be 
saved 

(Haniech nods his head, squats on his heels near 
Touati, and loads his revolver, while Touati finishes 
his cigarette.) 



CURTAIN 



THE JESTER 

FATE wrote the first chapter of this tale before either 
Zado Krelekian or Mohammed Yar came to New 
York; long before the transatlantic steamship lines, 
seeing their European immigration business dwindle, 
thanks to improved wage conditions, began to invade 
Asiatic Turkey with agents who spoke the many lan 
guages of that motley and illy patched empire, who 
gave untold promises and were guilty of untold lies, 
who plastered ancient walls, tumbledown mosques, 
and battered, crumbling bazaars with garish six-sheet 
posters that pictured the New World as an immense 
block of real estate, entirely paved with minted gold 
and especially protected by the blessed hand of Ali. 

Fate wrote the tragedy of this tale when, shortly 
after Creation itself, it made a compromise with Al- 
Shaitan the Stoned, the Father of Lies, by planting 
the seed of hatred in two races, Armenian and Kurd, 
the first Christian, the second Moslem; a curse which 
in the swing of the centuries stretched beyond the 
western vilayets of the Ottoman Empire, across the 
ragged, frayed basalt frontiers into the Caucasus and 
Southern Russia, the plains of soft, lisping Persia, 
west into the yellow, purple-blotched glare of Egypt, 
and west again . . . even beyond the sea, following 
the churned lane of Cunarder and White Star boat, 

125 



128 ALIEN SOULS 

into New York, there to abut in the maze and reek 
and riot of half a dozen tired, melancholy old streets 
that, a few blocks away from the greasy drab of the 
river, cluster toward the Rector Street Elevated sta 
tion, toward the pride of the Wall Street mart, as far 
even as busy, bartering, negligent Broadway. 

Smelly, wheezy, threadbare old streets. 

Gray, flat, dull. Powdered here and there with the 
mottled brick-red of a once patrician house, a stable 
or a garage that generations earlier had been a stately 
residence. Streets branching west, north, and south, 
in an irregular pattern of rays; rays of wretched, 
lumpy cobblestone and wretcheder gutters; rays par 
alleled by rickety frame dwellings that bring you 
straight back to the days when square-rigged clippers 
rode the waters and when men imported their liquor 
from Holland and called it genever. 

Tragic streets, fit background for a tragic tale. 

Not that this tale is entirely tragic. 

For both tragedy and comedy are a matter of view 
point, perhaps of race and faith and prejudice (a wise 
Arab once said that prejudice is but another name for 
race and faith) ; and if your sense of humor be slightly 
crooked, slightly acrid, in other words Oriental, you 
will laugh at the thought of Zado Krelekian cooped 
up in the back room of his house, with windows nailed 
down and curtains and shutters tightly closed both 
summer and winter, the doors hermetically sealed, with 
fear forever stewing in his brain, in his very ears and 
eyes, as he imagines he can see or hear the approach 
of those whom he dreads, praying at times so as to 
be on the safe side of ultimate salvation, praying quite 
fervently to the God and the many saints of his ancient 
Armenian church, in whom he does not really believe. 



THE JESTER 127 

You will also laugh at the picture of Aziza water 
ing the starved geraniums in her window-box and 
looking from her balcony across Washington Street 
for the return of her lover; with her braided bluish- 
black hair that looks as if cigarette smoke had been 
blown through it, her immense, opaque eyes, her nar 
row, pleasurable hands, her tiny feet, the soles stained 
crimson with henna, the big toes and the ankles ablaze 
with gold and precious stones. 

And finally you may smile tolerantly at the thought 
of Mohammed Yar, once a ragged, thin-mouthed, 
hook-nosed Kurd tribesman, but dressed to-day in 
swagger tweeds that bear the Fifth Avenue label, his 
brown, predatory fingers encircled by rings of great 
value, his shirt of silk and embroidered over the heart 
with an extravagant monogram in lavender and pale 
green, his shoes handstitched and bench-made; lord 
ing it gloriously and arrogantly over Krelekian s Ar 
menian clerks, spending Krelekian s money, and at 
times kissing Aziza, Krelekian s wife. 

"There is no power nor strength save in Allah, the 
One!" he says with typical Moslem hypocrisy every 
time he kisses her pouting lips. Always he smiles 
when he kisses her. Always he snaps his fingers de 
risively in the direction of the closed shutters behind 
which Zado Krelekian shivers and prays. 

Thus he had laughed and snapped his fingers that 
day, half a year earlier, when he had walked down 
the length of Washington Street, supple shoulders 
thrown back, great, hairy hands swinging up and down 
like flails, elbowing out of his path Armenian and 
Syrian as if he were back in his native Turkish village 
of Khinis, up in the hills, between Erzerum and Biltis. 

There was angry murmuring at his back; curses; 



128 ALIEN SOULS 

occasionally a fist furtively clenched. But none chal 
lenged his insolent progress. For the man was lean 
and thin-mouthed and hook-nosed : a Kurd of Kurds ; 
and a dozen years of American freedom cannot wipe 
out the livid fear of the centuries. 

"Out of my way, sons of burnt fathers!" snarled 
Mohammed Yar, studying the sign-boards above the 
stores, Armenian all, Kabulian and Jamjotchian and 
Nasakian, and what-not, advertising all the world s 
shopworn goods at a shopworn discount; and then, 
taking a sallow, raven-haired youth by the neck and 
twirling him like a top : "Where does Krelekian live 
Zado Krelekian?" 

The evening before, the youth had learned in the 
Washington Street Night School about all men s be 
ing born free and equal, and so he mumbled some 
thing hectic and nervous as to this being a free coun 
try, and what did the other mean by 

"Answer me, dog!" came the Kurd s even, passion 
less voice. "Where is the house of Zado Krelekian?" 
He tightened his grip. 

The Armenian looked up and down the street, but 
no policeman was in sight. He deckled to fence for 
time, since he did not trust the stranger s intention. 

"What do you want with Zado Krelekian?" he 
asked. 

Mohammed Yar slowly closed one eye. 

"I want words with him. Honeyed words, brother 
of inquisitiveness. Words smooth as silk, straight 
as a lance, soft as a virgin s kiss. Krelekian is a 
friend of mine, much beloved." 

"A friend of yours? Ahi!" sighed the Armenian, 
in memory of past happenings in his native vilayet. 



THE JESTER 129 

<f Was there ever friendship between your race and 
mine?" 

"Indeed, there was not, goat of a smell most goat 
ish !" came the pleasant rejoinder. "But this is Amer 
ica. A free land, say you ! A land of brothers, say 
I! Therefore, tell me, or" with a significant back 
sweep of his right hand "I may think too much of 
this being a land of brothers, and, being older than 
you, may feel morally forced to chasten your reck 
less spirit with many and painful beatings, as be 
comes an elder and loving brother solicitous of his 
younger brother s welfare. Do you get me?" he 
wound up disconcertingly in plain American English. 

"Yes, yes, yes! . . . Zado Krelekian lives at 84 
West Street." 

"Is he rich?" 

"Yes, yes!" 

"Is he happy and honored and contented?" 

"Yes. None more so." 

"Good! Good! And is his wife still with him?" 

"Yes." The young Armenian essayed a lopsided 
smile. "She is with him, and she is beautiful and " 

"Silence, dog! Do not besmirch a woman with 
foul praise, or " 

But the Armenian twisted quickly away from his 
grip and ran down the street, rubbing his shoulder, 
while Mohammed Yar turned into West Street, look 
ing at the numbers of the houses until he reached 
Eighty-Four. 

Eighty-Four was a shop, swollen and bulbous with 
merchandise that tumbled across the counter and 
through the open door, spilling into the street itself in 
a motley, crazy avalanche. There were bolts of silk 



130 ALIEN SOULS 

and linen and wool; wooden boxes filled with Syrian 
and Greek sweets; figs and dates, raisins from the 
isles of Greece, and brittle, yellow Persian tobacco 
tied up in bundles; pyramids of strange, high-colored 
vegetables; slippers of flimsy red and orange leather. 
Dried fish there was, and incense in crystals; oil of 
rose and jessamine and geranium in slim bottles picked 
out with leaf gold; carved walking-sticks from 
Smyrna; inlaid metal work from Damascus; black 
and white veils heavy with twisted silver and gold, 
rugs from many lands, coffee and tea and what-not. 

The whole seemed prosperous, and prosperous, too, 
seemed the youngish, stout Armenian merchant about 
a year Mohammed Yar s junior who stood in the 
doorway, hands in pockets, contentedly puffing at a 
fat, crimson-and-gold-banded cigar. 

Peaceful he looked, and rosy, and well fed ; pleased 
with himself, his neighbors, and the world in general. 
And then, quite suddenly, his knees began to tremble. 
An ashen pallor overspread his features. He dropped 
his cigar. Up went his right eyebrow and his upper 
lip in a curling, nervous twitch, and with a rapidity 
that belied his solid bulk he tried to rush into his shop. 

But he was not quick enough. 

For Mohammed Yar s hairy hand fell on his shoul 
der, and he heard the Kurd s raucous voice: 

"Good morning, friend!" 

"Go-goo go-ood morning," stammered Krelekian, 
feebly trying to twist away; and the Kurd broke into 
low laughter. 

"Allah!" he said. "Is this the way in which you 
welcome the man who has traveled many miles for the 
pleasure of shaking your honest hand, of feasting his 
eyes on your honest face? Shame on you, Zado of 



THE JESTER 131 

my heart!" and he slipped his arm through that of 
the other and begged him to lead the way where they 
could sip their coffee and smoke their pipes in 
peace . . . "and speak of our home in Turkey, of the 
olden days when you and I were even as twin brothers 
rocked in the same cradle! * 

Krelekian sighed. He looked to right and left, at 
his clerks who were behind the counter attending to 
the wants of the half-dozen customers. But not a 
word did he utter in protest. He walked along by 
the side of the Kurd; for beneath the man s ragged, 
shabby, hand-me-down coat he could feel the sharp 
angle of the crooked dagger-handle pressing into his 
side like a message. 

"Ah!" gently breathed Mohammed Yar as he sat 
down on a carved, inlaid Syrian chair in the back 
room of the shop, facing his host, who was still as 
livid as a dead man s bones, still furtive-eyed, shak 
ing in every limb. "This is good! Good, by mine 
own honor! It is as if we were back in our home 
village, in Khinis of the hills, friend of me !" 

He made a great gesture with his hairy, high-veined 
hand, that cut through the clustered shadows of the 
little room like a dramatic incident, that brushed 
through the sudden, clogged stillness like a conjurer/ s 
wand, sweeping away the drab grime and riot of West 
Street, and conjuring up the glare, the acrid sweet 
ness, the booming, dropping snow chill of the little 
hill village where both had lived and loved. 

Clear across Zado Krelekian s livid realization of 
the present slashed the picture of the little town, 
Khinis, on the way to Erzerum, and what had hap 
pened there between him, not then a well-fed, rosy, 



132 ALIEN SOULS 

prosperous New York shop-keeper, Mohammed Yar, 
not then dressed in the slops of the New York water 
front, and Aziza, the blue-haired girl with the henna- 
stained feet and the anklets that tinkled, tinkled 
mockingly. 

Three years ago. And one day. And he had tried 
to forget that day! 

Three years rolled back like a curtain. And the 
happenings of that one day, popping back again into 
the cells of his remembrance, sitting in a solemn, 
graven row, and jeering at him because of the pitiful 
futility of it ! 

A cold, raw hill day it had been, with cottony snow- 
flakes thudding softly and with the old mosque of 
Hajji AH the Sweetmeat-Seller raised on its broad 
marble steps as on a base, lifting the apex of its wide 
horseshoe gate forty feet up in the air, and the gate 
way how well he remembered it all, here in the flat, 
melancholy drab of West Street! covered with 
arabesques of mosaic faience in green and peacock 
blue and deep rose and bearing its holy message in 
conventionalized mushakil Arabic characters. 

"In the name of Allah, the One, the All-Merciful, 
the All-Knowing, the King of the Day of Judgment !" 
read the inscription, and always he had feared it, he 
and the others of his race, like something terribly 
pious and terribly ironic, since it expressed the arro 
gant, harsh faith of the Kurd masters who ruled them, 
and beat them, and robbed them, and at times killed 
them because of the sport of it. 

Well he remembered how he had trembled even 
as he was trembling now when Mohammed Yar, 
dressed in sweeping woolen cloak, leather sandals, and 



THE JESTER 133 

tall, rakish fur cap, had come out of the mosque of 
Hajji the Sweetmeat-Seller, had whispered a rapid 
word to him, and had walked on by his side, towards 
the coffee-house of Malakian, where they had sat 
down. 

He remembered his own brazen words. 

Yes. Brazen. 

For, careful man, he had taken with him that day 
Musa Lahada, the lean, sardonic Turkish Jew who 
was attached as dragoman to the British Consulate 
and thus protected by the Union Jack. 

"I saw and heard the whole thing, Mohammed Yar," 
he had said. "I was passing through Nahassim 
Street, and I heard the quarrel, the insults. I saw 
the blow " 

"He insulted me first !" the Kurd had cried. "That 
cursed Frankish infidel! He struck the first blow!" 

"True; but you drew steel and killed. I saw it. I 
know where you hid the corpse back of the camel 
stables in Farid Khan s Gully. And I have witnesses." 

"Armenian witnesses ! Fathers of pigs, and sons of 
pigs ! Liars " 

"Armenians? Yes! Fathers of pigs, and sons of 
pigs? Perhaps! But not liars, Mohammed Yar. 
They saw the thing which is true, and they will swear 
to it. And Armenians or not, pigs or not, they will 
be believed by the British consul. For the man whom 
you killed was an Englishman, and " 

"And ?" Mohammed Yar had asked with a side 
long glance. 

"Death is bitter bitter as the fruit which grows 
near the Bahretlut!" 

"But must there be death?" 



134 ALIEN SOULS 

"No, Mohammed Yar. I am willing to stuff my 
mouth with silence for a consideration, supplemented 
by an oath." 

"Name the oath first," the Kurd had laughed. "It 
is cheaper than the consideration when dealing with 
an Armenian, O Father of Compound Interest !" 

"Possibly cheaper." Krelekian had inclined his 
head. "Here it is, for you to take or leave, accord 
ing to how you prefer life or death. You must swear 
on the Koran, by your own salvation and that of your 
parents, by the honor of your mother and your sisters, 
by the blood of the Prophet and the horns of the Arch 
angel Gabriel you must swear a most sacred oath 
that, as long as you live, there shall be no killing nor 
beating in revenge of what I shall ask of you, that 
never for what is happening to-day between you and 
me will you take toll with steel or bullet or whip or 
fist with blood nor with pain neither you nor your 
tribesmen nor your friends! My life must be sacred 
to you, and inviolate." 

"Good ! I swear it. Yes, yes, yes" as the Arme 
nian had insisted on the exact phraseology. "Never 
shall I take toll, neither I nor my friends nor my 
tribesmen, neither with steel nor bullet nor whip nor 
fist. I swear it on the Koran, by my own and my 
parents salvation, by the honor of my mother and my 
sisters, by the blood of the Prophet and the horns of 
the Archangel Gabriel! May my right hand dry on 
my body may I eat dirt may God strike me dumb 
and deaf and blind if I break this solemn oath! 
And now what is the consideration for your silence 
in that little killing matter?" 

"It is simple, Mohammed Yar. Only a woman 
whom you love and whom I love, but who, being a 



THE JESTER 135 

gypsy, loves neither you nor me, but only gold and 
silver and jewels and sweets and laughter." 

"Aziza?" the Kurd had whispered, the blood mount 
ing to his high cheek bones. 

"Yes; Aziza." 

Aziza! The gypsy! 

Up there on the second floor above his shop, glisten 
ing among the heaped green cushions of her couch 
like an exotic beetle in a nest of fresh leaves; with 
her tiny oval of a face that through the meshes of her 
bluish-black hair looked like the face of a golden 
statue with living eyes and the expression in those 
eyes, hard, keen, narrow, like the curling shimmer of 
moon-rays on forged steel . . . 

For he had married Aziza after the Kurd, con 
fronted by the inevitable, had given in. He had taken 
her to New York with him. For love of her he had 
outwitted his brother Armenians. He had out 
generaled them, outbargained them, and if the truth 
be told outcheated them . . . yes . . . because he 
loved her. 

And now ? 

"Mohammed Yar!" he stammered. "Remember 
the oath you gave !" 

"I do remember," smiled the other, with a flash of 
even, white teeth, "and I shall keep it. Do not be 
afraid, Zado. And now a cup of coffee, a few figs, 
a handful of dates. Give me welcome!" 

Zado gave a relieved laugh. The color came back 
to his cheeks. He clapped his hands, summoning a 
clerk, and ordered coffee and figs and pipes to be 
brought, and for the next hour he sat facing his guest, 
chattering gayly. 



136 ALIEN SOULS ^ 

Finally the Kurd rose. 

"I shall call again if I may," he said. 

"Please do." Krelekian accompanied him to the 
door. "Call again. I shall make you welcome. 
What are you doing in New York? Where are you 
staying? How long have you been here?" 

"I came with an Arab doctor whom I met in 
Smyrna," replied the Kurd. "We live oh, a ways 
north, near the University. He is taking a special 
course in the medicine of the Americans, and he 
teaches me in payment for my services. Some day 
I shall be a doctor myself." He took the other s hand, 
shook it, then, just as he was about to release it, 
raised it close up to his eyes and studied it. "Zado !" 
he went on, giving his words the emphasis of a low 
ered voice. "What is the matter with you?" 

"Why nothing." 

Again the Kurd studied the other s pudgy, flabby 
hand. 

"Well" he shrugged his shoulders "perhaps I am 
mistaken. Never mind." 

And he walked away, while the Armenian looked 
after him, smiling, happy once more, and saying to his 
chief clerk that indeed America was a great and won 
derful country. 

"It teaches decency and kindliness and forgiving 
even to a Kurd," he wound up, and he went upstairs 
to kiss the red lips of Aziza. 

She yawned. 

Mohammed Yar had not lied when he had told Zado 
Krelekian about his relations with the Arab doctor. 
The latter, a graduate of the University of Paris, had 
come to New York to take a special course un4er Pro- 



THE JESTER 137 

fessor Clinton McGarra, the great skin specialist, and 
had picked up the Kurd in Smyrna. For Mohammed 
Yar had left his native village shortly after Krelekian 
and Aziza had departed for America, drifting on the 
trail of the Armenian with the instinct of a wild ani 
mal, serene in his belief that presently Fate would send 
him across the other s path. 

The Arab, being an Arab, thus an ironic observer 
of living things, had taken an interest in the savage 
tribesman, who took him completely into his con 
fidence, telling him about Zado and Aziza. 

"Come with me to America," El-Touati, the Arab, 
had said. "You say he has gone there. It will not 
be hard to find him. Armenians are a clannish folk, 
herding together like sheep." 

And thus Mohammed Yar became cook, bottle- 
washer, valet, and half a dozen other useful things 
to the smiling, bearded Arab, receiving in exchange 
a small wage and certain lessons in medicine certain 
lessons which, when first mentioned, had sent both 
the Arab and the Kurd into fits of high-pitched, 
throaty laughter. 

El-Touati laughed now as Mohammed Yar came 
into the room, returned from his morning s expedition 
to West Street. 

"Did you find him?" he asked. 

"Yes, Haakim." 

"Did you bridle your tongue and your temper?" 

"Yes. I spoke honeyed words, sweet words, glib 
words." 

"And," pursued the Arab, "did you speak forked 
words, twisted words, words filled with guile and 
worry?" 

"Yes. I planted the seed of worry, Haakim." 



138 ALIEN SOULS 

The Arab raised his thin, brown hands in a pious 
gesture. 

"Is-subr miftah il-faraj!" ("Patience is the key of 
relief!") he muttered. And then Kurd and Arab 
smiled at each other through half -closed eyes, and the 
latter turned to the former and asked him to come 
with him to the next room, his little private laboratory. 
"I shall give you another lesson, my savage friend. 
Hand me down that leather case with the crystal- 
tipped needles and the little box filled with the tiny 
green vials. Listen . . ." 

And the Kurd inclined his great head, listening to 
the other s smooth, rapid words, occasionally asking 
a question when his primitive mind could not grasp 
the technical and scientific details, but sturdily bent on 
his task, until El-Touati declared himself satisfied. 

"There is no danger?" asked Mohammed Yar. 
"You know, Haakim, I gave a most solemn oath." 

"There is no danger. None whatsoever. Ex 
cept" he smiled "to Aziza. For she may change 
the gentle hand of Zado for " 

"I shall beat her," said Mohammed Yar. "Then 
I shall kiss her red lips until they hurt. Then I shall 
beat her again. She will love me very much. She is 
a gypsy. . . ." 

"And you a Kurd!" laughed El-Touati, closing 
the little leather case, but not before the other had 
dipped a furtive hand into its contents. 

The next day, and again the next, and every day 
the following week, Mohammed Yar called on Zado 
Krelekian. Moslem, thus believing in the sacredness 
and proprieties of married relations, he never in 
quired after Aziza, never as much as mentioned her 



THE JESTER 139 

name to her husband, and it was not his fault that on 
his fourth visit the gypsy was looking from the nar 
row balcony where she was watering her starved, dusty 
geraniums. It was not his fault that suddenly her 
eyes opened wide and that one of the flowers fell at 
his feet. 

Gradually the Armenian looked forward with real 
pleasure to the Kurd s coming. For not only was 
it a link with his little native Turkish village, but 
also the fact of his being on such good terms with a 
Kurd, a hereditary master, served to heighten his 
importance and social standing among his country 
men. 

There was only one thing to which he took ex 
ception, namely the Kurd s habit of inquiring after 
his health. 

It was not the usual, flowery Oriental way, but a 
detailed inquiry: "How did you sleep? Did you 
perspire last night ? Have you a headache ? Does 
your body itch? Have you fever?" And always 
Mohammed Yar would study his hand intently, then 
release it with a flat, sympathetic sigh, until Krelekian 
one day lost his temper and made an ill-natured re 
mark that the Kurd s association with the Arab doctor 
seemed to have developed in him a positively ghoulish 
instinct. 

"You are like some cursed, toothless Syrian mid 
wife," he exclaimed, "forever smelling out sickness 
and death sniffing about like some carrion-eating 
jackal of the desert !" 

Mohammed Yar spread his hairy paws in a massive 
gesture. 

"I am sorry, my friend," he replied. "I meant only 
to Never mind . . ." 



140 ALIEN SOULS 

Krelekian s nerves trembled like piano wires under 
the hammer of the keys. 

"Never mind what?" he cried in a cracked voice; 
and the Kurd, like one making a sudden, disagreeable 
resolution, leaned across the table and spoke in a low 
voice. 

"I " he began, and was silent again. 

"What? What?" 

"I Ah! Ullah Karim!" 

Mohammed Yar was evidently embarrassed ; just as 
evidently sorry for his host, terribly sorry. Then, as 
if obeying an overwhelming inner force, he picked up 
Krelekian s flabby hand where it rested twitching and 
nervous among the brass-encased coffee-cups, held it 
high, and examined it intently, as on his first visit. 

"Zado!" he murmured, in a low, choked voice. 
"Zado dear, dear friend " 

He was silent. He dropped the trembling hand as 
if it were red-glowing charcoal. He rose very hur 
riedly and rushed through the shop, out to the side 
walk, Krelekian close on his heels and clutching his 
arm. 

"No, no!" whispered Mohammed Yar, still in that 
same choked voice. "Do not ask me. Perhaps I am 
mistaken and if I am mistaken and should tell you, 
you would never forgive me ! Perhaps I am mistaken. 
I must be mistaken . . . yes, yes ... I know I am 
mistaken!" and he ran down the street, never heed 
ing the Armenian s protests to come back, to explain. 

Perhaps it was a coincidence that late that same 
evening the Kurd, helping the Arab doctor, received a 
special-delivery letter with the mark of a West Side 
downtown post-office ; a letter perfumed with attar of 



JHE JESTER 141 

geranium and saying in Arabic that "the sword of 
worry and despair has entered the buffalo s soul." 

Perhaps it was coincidence that during the next four 
weeks, while spring burst into the full flower of sum 
mer, while Washington and West and Rector Streets 
began to shimmer with a great, brittle heat that danced 
about the heaped wares of the Armenian shops with 
cutting rays, that touched the ramshackle, drab houses 
and the dust-choked gutters with points of glittering 
gold, that steeped the open doors of the stores with 
black splotches like bottomless hollows and wove over 
everything a crooked, checkered pattern of intolerable 
orange and crimson that during four long weeks 
Mohammed Yar attended strictly to his duties as Doc 
tor El-Touati s factotum and never once found time 
to call on Zado Krelekian. 

Perhaps it was an accident that, when finally he did 
go to the other s house, he kept himself at a little, 
well-marked distance and, with clumsy intent, did not 
see Zado s outstretched hand. 

Lastly, it was perhaps by accident that when, after 
a sharp pause and struggle, he did shake the other s 
hand, that same hand was suddenly withdrawn with a 
little cry of pain. 

"Something scratched my palm," said Zado Krele 
kian. 

Apologetically the Kurd pointed at the sharp edge 
of his cuff. 

"I am sorry," he smiled, at the same time rapidly 
dropping into his side pocket a little crystal-tipped 
needle. 

That day it was not the Kurd who inquired after 
the Armenian s health, but the latter who spoke of it 
voluntarily, hectically, the words tumbling out of his 



142 ALIEN SOULS 

mouth as if he had to speak them or choke, as if try 
ing to roll an immense burden of grief and worry 
from his stout chest. 

"I am not well," he said. "I perspire at night. 
My body itches. I have fever. I am not well not 
well at all !" 

"Summer," gently suggested Mohammed Yar. 
"The fever of summer." 

"No, no ! It is not that. I tell you I am sick and 
at times I am afraid. Tell me, Mohammed Yar, you 
who study with a great Arab doctor what do you 
think?" 

The other shook his head. 

"I do not know," he replied. "The last time I saw 
you I was afraid that you " He looked up with sud 
den resolution. "Here is my address," he continued, 
giving Zado a slip of paper. "If I say, if a tiny 
white rash should break out on your hand to-night, 
perhaps to-morrow morning, let me know at once. 
But tell nobody else under no considerations whatso 
ever!" he emphasized in a whisper. 
"Why not?" 

"Because Never mind. You will know in time 
if the rash should appear though Allah grant in his 
mercy and understanding that it may not appear! 
Allah grant it !" he repeated with pious unction as he 
left the shop. 

But late that night there was less unction and more 
sincerity in his exclamation of "Allah is great indeed ! 
He is the One, All-Knowing!" when he opened the 
telegram he had just received and read its contents to 
El-Touati. 

"It is done," he said, "and I am off." 
At the door he turned. 



THE JESTER 143 

"Tell me, Haakim," he asked, "are you sure there 
is no danger ? Remember I have sworn a most solemn 
oath never to take toll with steel or blood or pain for 
what happened that day, back home in Khinis, between 
him and me!" 

"Rest assured," laughed the Arab. "Your oath is 
inviolate. There will be neither blood nor pain ex 
cept perhaps a pain of the mind, which" he shrugged 
his shoulders "is beyond the probing of human ken, 
being entirely a matter of Fate, thus sealed to 
us." 

"There will also be pain on Aziza s crimson lips 
when I crush them with the strength and the desire 
of mine own lips!" replied the Kurd from the thresh- 
hold. 

It was hours later, in the little back room of Zado 
Krelekian s shop, that Mohammed Yar put his hand 
gently on the Armenian s shoulder. 

"Heart of my heart," he said, and his voice was 
as soft as the spring breeze, "it is the decree of Fate 
Fate, which comes out of the dark like a blind camel, 
with no warning, no jingling of bells; Fate, which is 
about the necks of all of us, be we Armenians or 
Kurds, Christians or Moslems, like a strangling lash. 
Long life may yet be yours. But " He made a 
sweeping gesture. 

"Is it hopeless?" 

"Yes. As hopeless as when Khizr hides his shiny 
face." 

"But what can I do? What?" 

"Nothing ! I spoke to my Haakim, El-Touati. He 
does not know you personally. But I told him about 
you, of the fact that you and I, Armenian and Kurd, 



144 ALIEN SOULS 

Christian and Moslem, enemies once, became friends 
in this strange land of America. And he says even 
as I say : you must shut yourself up where none may 
see you except I, your very good friend. For these 
Americans fear it!" Again his hand pressed gently 
the other s heaving, trembling shoulder. "If you go 
to an American doctor, if you tell anybody, they will 
make a report to their health police and send you away 
to a desolate spot, far away from the land of the liv 
ing, from everybody, from all your friends even 
from me, heart of my heart! It is the law of this 
land. It is so written in their books. But, doing 
what I tell you, you will also be shut up, but you will 
be near your shop you can take the little house next 
door, which you own near Aziza, near me! And 
I will take care of you. I I am your friend, and, 
being your friend, I am not afraid of it! I, I my 
self, will bring you food and drink and tobacco and 
books and papers. But nobody must know, lest the 
health police find out and send you to the desolate 
spot!" 

"How can we do it?" 

"I shall spread a lie, skillfully, hoping that Allah 
may forgive me the lie because of the friendship which 
causes it. I will tell your countrymen that a great 
sorrow, a crushing melancholia, has overtaken you. 
I shall bring a paper to that effect from the Arab 
Haakim." 

"But," cried Zado Krelekian hysterically, "my shop 
my business my wife?" 

"Zado" there was gentle reproof in the Kurd s 
accents "do you not trust me? Have I not been a 
friend to you? Has ever thought of revenge entered 
my heart? Zado heart of my heart I shall take 



THE JESTER 145 

care of everything for you, because of the respect, the 
friendship, the love, I bear you !" 

And he walked softly out of the shop while Zado 
Krelekian looked at his hand, at the little white rash 
that had broken out where the crystal-tipped needle 
had pricked the skin. 

"Leper!" he whispered under his breath. "Leper! 
Oh, my God!" 

And it is thus that Zado Krelekian is cooped up in 
the back room of his house, with windows nailed down 
and curtains tightly closed both summer and winter, 
with fear stewing forever in his brain. 

It is thus that Mohammed Yar, once a ragged, thin- 
mouthed, hook-nosed Kurd tribesman, dresses to-day 
in the height of fashion and lords it gloriously over 
Krelekian s Armenian clerks, spending Krelekian s 
money. 

It is thus that, when the mood or the passion takes 
him, he crushes Aziza in his great, muscular arms and 
kisses her on the pouting, crimson lips. 

Always he smiles when he kisses her. And always 
he gives thanks to Allah. Always he snaps his rin 
gers derisively in the direction of the closed shutters 
behind which Zado Krelekian shivers. 

Always when, as a good Moslem, he says his morn 
ing and evening prayers, he adds :. 

"I am glad, O Allah, O All-Knowing One, that I 
kept my oath that I did not take toll of Zado Kre 
lekian, neither with steel nor bullet, neither with whip 
nor fist!" 



THE STRENGTH OF THE LITTLE THIN 
THREAD 

IBRAHIM FADLALLAH shrugged his shoulders : 

"You do not understand, my frfend. You cannot 
get it through your head that it is impossible to de 
stroy caste and to create fraternity by Act of Parlia 
ment. Allah you can t even do it in your own 
country." 

"But modern progress the telegraph the democ 
racy of the railway carriage " interrupted the 
American. 

"You can compel a Brahmin to sit in the same office 
and to ride in the same railway compartment with 
a man of low caste, but you can never force him to 
eat with him or to give him his daughter in marriage. 
You spoke of those who are educated abroad and 
even they, my friend, when they return to Hind, drift 
back into caste and the ways of caste. For there is a 
little thread oh, such a tiny, thin little thread which 
binds them to their own land, their own kin, their own 
caste. And it seems that they have not the strength to 
break it this little thread. 

"Ah, yes! Let me tell you something which oc 
curred last year a true tale and please do not for 
get the thread, the little thread 

"Now the whole thing was like a play in one of 
your theaters it was staged, dear one, and well staged. 
[The scene was the great hall in which meets the caste 

146 



THE LITTLE THIN THREAD 

tribunal of a certain Brahmin clan. Imagine, if you 
please, a huge quadrangle, impressively bare but for a 
low dais at one end, covered with a few Bengali shawls 
and an antelope skin or two ah ! and then the dra 
matic atmosphere. Not the atmosphere of death oh, 
no ! much worse than death, much worse. For what 
is death compared to the loss of caste? And that af 
ternoon they were going to try a man who had pol 
luted his blood, who had sinned a great sin, a great sin 
more heinous than the killing of cows not a sin ac 
cording to your code of laws but then they were men 
of a different race, and their sins are not your sins 
eh? and mayhap their virtues may not be your 
virtues. 

"On the dais sat his Holiness Srimat Muniswa- 
mappa Rama-Swami, and on either side of him stood 
anxious disciples who looked with awe at his thin, 
clean-shaven lips and fanned his holy old poll with 
silver-handled yak tails. Near him sat the pleader and 
a few Brahmin grandees, whom he was in the habit of 
consulting in cases of importance. At a respectful 
distance were the men of the clan : they filed in slowly, 
prostrating themselves in turn before the Swami and 
uttering the name of the presiding deity with trembling 
lips, while his Holiness smiled a contemplative smile, 
and while his fingers counted the beads on his rosary. 

"The proceeding opened with a sermon pronounced 
by the Swami. First, he praised Ganesa, Sarasvati, 
and half a dozen other assorted deities, and then with 
a great abundance of detail and many long-winded 
quotations he set forth the duties of the twice-born. 
He told them that a Brahmin should not break up 
clods of earth nor tear up the grass under his feet; 
that he should not look at the setting sun, the rising 



148 ALIEN SOULS 

sun, the sun in eclipse, the image of the sun in a pool 
of water; that he should not point at the stars with 
fingers of irreverence; that he should not sleep with 
his head turned toward the north or west; that he 
should abstain from cutting his nails with his teeth, 
from using the same toothstick more than once, from 
eating off plates used by others, and from wearing san 
dals worn by strangers and a thousand such foolish 
injunctions. 

"The assembly was politely bored, but the Swami 
enjoyed himself hugely. For it gave him an oppor 
tunity to show his great learning and his wonderful 
memory, and then, like most holy men, he loved to 
lay stress on the outward emblems of his faith. He 
illustrated his sermon by relating several horrid ex 
amples, chiefly that of a wicked barber who had shaved 
a Brahmin with a razor which had been polluted by 
the shadow of a low-caste falling on it. Finally, he 
commented on the advent of modernity and expounded 
with more lengthy and tiresome quotations how the 
devils of progress, skepticism, irreverence, and anarchy 
were making headway amongst the twice-born, how 
the young Brahmins were making their names a name 
of scorn in the present world and spoiling their chances 
for the future world. 

"Then he whispered a word to the pleader, who 
called up the case of Chaganti Samashiva Rao, a young 
Brahmin accused of having sullied his caste by marry 
ing an infidel. 

"There was a commotion at the door, and then Rao 
appeared, struggling furiously in the arms of half a 
dozen muscular youngsters. The pleader explained 
that Rao had studied in Boston and that he had brought 
home with him a girl, a native of the land of the 



THE LITTLE THIN THREAD 149 

foreigners and a Christian, whom he had married 
according to the laws of the Americans. He had thus 
polluted himself, his father, his mother, his cow, and 
his caste. Here the pleader was silent for a few 
moments to let the atrocity of the crime soak into all 
hearts, and then he asked the assembly for a verdict. 
And the assembly shouted like one man : Let him lose 
caste. Drive him out. Drive him out. 

"But Rao rose and declared he was going to make a 
speech. He said he would tell the old fossils, includ 
ing his Holiness Srimat Muniswamappa Rama-Swami, 
what he thought of them. There were roars of: 
Throw him out! Stop his unclean mouth! and 
angry hands were raised. But his Holiness smiled a 
thin, mocking smile and bade the assembly be quiet and 
listen to what the defendant would have to say for 
himself. 

"Rao acknowledged this permission with a sarcastic 
bow of gratitude, pulled out his cuffs he wore Eng 
lish clothes and proceeded to shock the grave assem 
bly greatly by declaring that he did not give a whoop 
in Hades such was the expression he used, he being 
a perfect English scholar for all the Brahmins, all 
the Swamis, and all the caste tribunals in the length 
and breadth of Hindustan. He had been brought into 
court by force, he indignantly complained, and he ab 
solutely denied the power and the right of the assembly 
to punish him. For he had lived several years in 
America, had become an American citizen, and had 
voluntarily thrown away his caste as he would a 
pair of worn-out sandals. 

"His Holiness interrupted him, saying that he would 
now pass sentence on him. But Rao exclaimed : Sen 
tencethe devil you ve neither the right nor the 



150 ALIEN SOULS 

might to sentence me. The Swami, never heeding the 
interruption, continued with a calm and even voice: 
I sentence you to the living death of the outcast until 
such time as you expiate your crime, acknowledge 
your errors, and regain your caste status, which you 
forfeit to-day, through the regular methods as laid 
down in the holy books. Your friends and relatives 
will assemble on the first unlucky day of next week, 
and will offer, as if to your manes, a libation in a pot 
of water which a slave girl shall dash against the walls 
of your house, and all who take part in this ceremony 
shall be regarded as impure for three days. Your 
friends and relatives shall not be permitted to accept 
your hospitality, nor shall you be allowed to share 
theirs. Your touch shall be pollution unspeakable. 
Your children shall be outcasts and shall not marry 
anybody but Mangs and Mahars. Your own father 
and mother shall be forbidden your house under the 
risk of losing caste. Neither your barber, your tailor, 
your cook, nor your washerwoman shall work for 
you. Nobody shall assist you in any way, not even 
at the funeral of a member of your household. You 
shall be debarred access to the temples 

"Here Rao, who had mocked and laughed during 
all this sentence, cried : Save your breath, oh holy 
one, for indeed all this tommyrot can never affect me. 
As to hospitality, I don t care to invite those old fos 
sils of Brahmins into my house, nor could I ever bring 
myself to set foot in theirs and listen to their tire 
some dissertations about the Veda and the Upanishads ; 
besides, I ve plenty of European friends. As to my 
children being outcasts, know, revered uncle, that ^ I 
have none, and that if ever I should have any they will 
be Americans like myself and marry like myself. As 



[THE LITTLE JHIN THREAD 151 

to my father and mother being forbidden my house 
well, they re both dead. As to my being debarred 
access to your temples by the great God Shiva I 
never go there anyway 

"His Holiness waited until Rao had finished, and 
then he said, with the same inscrutable smile playing 
about the corners of his thin lips: I furthermore 
sentence you to have torn from your body the sacred 
thread of your caste, though here he smiled again 
I hardly believe that you, who have voluntarily 
given up your caste and who mock at everything con 
nected with it, can by any chance still have the thread 
about your person. 

"Here Rao made a wild dash in the direction of the 
door, but he was stopped by many willing hands. 
There was a short and furious struggle, his clothes 
were torn and, my friend, it appeared that he, the 
scoffer, the atheist, the expatriate, who had renounced 
India, who had thrown much filth at caste, who had 
become an American, a free-thinker, and a scoffer at 
superstitions still wore next his heart the thin thread, 
the holy thread of his caste the holiest, the most in 
timate, the most exclusive, the most secret, the most 
important emblem of the caste which he affected to 
despise " 

Ibrahim was silent, and the American asked : "Well 
what happened ?" 

The Egyptian lit a cigarette and continued : 

"Oh, the usual thing. Rao did penance, he feasted 
the priests, he went through the regular process of 
ceremonious purification " 

"But what about the girl?" 

"His wife? Oh he sent her Back to her own 
country " Ibrahim gave a dry little laugh. "Yes, 



152 ALIEN SOULS 

my friend, you assuredly understand India. You can 
reform the world with your progress, your modern 
ity, your splendid democracy you wonderful Anglo- 
Saxons. Only it appears that there is a little thread 
Allah, what a tiny little thread! which brings to 
naught all your wonderful civilization, your liberty, 
your democracy. Ah, such a tiny little thread, my 
friend" 



GRAFTER AND MASTER GRAFTER 

IT is said that, compared to the cunning of the fakir, 
the Holy Man of Hindustan, even an Armenian, a 
trustee, a banker, a widow, a demon, and a female 
cobra during the Grishna Season, are only lisping, 
prattling babes. 

Listen, then, to the tale of Harar Lai, the babu, the 
banker, the giver of many nautch parties, the sufferer 
from that envied disease of the idle rich, diabetes; 
and of Krishna Chucker-jee, the fakir, the Holy Man, 
the ash-smeared darling of the many gods. 

Harar Lai, the babu, was the big man of the village. 
His earrings were of jade. His face was shiny with 
ghee. His wife was fat and very beautiful; none of 
your lean, panther-like women she, but a proper 
woman, with the walk of the king-goose and the waist 
of the she-elephant. A most proper woman indeed! 
Three times he had been to Bombay; and he had 
brought back marvelous devil-things; clocks which 
clucked like moor-birds, boxes which had songs and 
voices in their bowels, resplendent and beautiful orna 
ments with the magic legend "Made in Birmingham." 

He was a banker. And Fate endowed him with 
such a miraculous skill in the making-out of accounts 
that a man to whom he had loaned fifty rupees might 
go on making monthly payments of twenty rupees 
each for three years without reducing his debt by a 
single anna. Great are the virtues of Compound In- 

153 



154 ALIEN SOULS 

terest! And, indeed, his books proved beyond the 
shadow of a doubt that the debt, instead of being re 
duced, would grow with each successive payment, un 
til in the end of a few years the original loan of fifty 
rupees had become half a lakh. He would then give 
thanks to Shiva, the great god, and to the just laws 
of the English. 

For look you: 

During the lawless old Moghul days, the days when 
the Moslem dogs ruled to the South of the Passes, a 
quick, crooked dagger-thrust would have ended the 
babu s earthly career. But the British Raj, the guard 
ian angel of the poor and the pitiful, had established 
the just laws of Europe in this land of oppression. 
Thus Harar Lai carried on his business in security, 
under the shadow of the law, even as they do in Eng 
land and in America. 

There was nothing he would not lend money on, 
from a nautch girl s blue beads to an unborn calf, 
from an acre of indigo plants to ten yards of muslin 
turban cloth; provided the papers were drawn up in 
proper form and witnessed by a notary public. 

And so in good years, when abundant rain watered 
the smiling fields, when the crops were green and 
bounteous, the fish swarming in the river, and the 
trees heavy with fruit, he would reap a goodish 
share of the gifts of the gods, and everything being 
so rich and plentiful he would naturally increase the 
interest on loans a little, just a little; while in bad 
years, when black famine stalked through the fields, 
when the sun burnt as do the eternal fires in the seventh 
hall of perdition, when the smoky yellow haze rose 
from the ground and suffocated the parching crops, 
when the fish perished of thirst in the drying streams, 



.GRAFTER AND MASTER GRAFTER 155 

when the land was dying of hunger, and the call to 
prayer gave way to the maddening chant of despair 
when his heart, his poor, tortured heart bled with 
the pity of it all, even then he would prosper exceed 
ingly. For behold: he was a Hindu, a babu, a fol 
lower of the praised god who is Shiva, charitable to 
a fault and quite unlike the Armenian pigs who suck 
the heart-blood of the unhappy land to the west; 
again he would loosen the strings of his compassionate 
purse and advance thousands of rupees to the men 
of the village. Never would he accept more than three 
hundred and twelve per cent a month, and he would 
be content, as only security, with a mortgage on every 
bullock and goat, every cartwheel and fishing-net, 
every tree and well in the blessed village. 

His eyes filled with tears of gratitude when he be 
held the righteous growth of his treasures. I said 
that he prospered and, indeed, there was never cart 
wheel tired, there was never net anchored, tree planted 
or grain sown but he received his fair share of the 
profits. 

He was the Corporation of the Village. 

It was when the juice was being collected from the 
heads of the opium poppies, that three wandering 
fakirs, a guru and two disciples, strayed into the 
village. They were very dirty, and thus very holy. 
They demanded food, drink, shelter and cowdung fuel 
from a wretched peasant who lived on the outskirts of 
the village. Money? No. They had none. They 
were fakirs, followers of the many gods, very holy, 
also very dirty. They had no money. Not a single 
rupee. 

"But do not let that worry you," said the guru. 
"To-night I shall pray to Shiva. He will repay you." 



156 ALIEN SOULS 

So the poor peasant gave rice and ghee and sweet 
meats and oil and onions and sugar and tamarinds to 
the three holy vampires who had never done a stroke 
of honest work in their lives. They did not have to. 
For they were of a most thorough and most astound 
ing dirtiness and ditto holiness. They lived thus on 
the superstitions of the land of Hind; and they lived 
exceedingly well. They also gave thanks to Shiva, the 
great god and to the just laws of the English. 

For look you: 

During the lawless old Moghul days, the days when 
the Moslem dogs ruled to the South of the Passes, a 
sharp sword would have quickly removed the heads 
of the three fakirs. But then the British Raj has estab 
lished the just laws of Europe in this land of op 
pression; the laws which preach tolerance and equal 
rights for all religions and sects. And so these re 
ligious parasites had gripped their fangs in the bowels 
of the land s prosperity, even as in England and in 
America. 

The holy men asked the news of the village, care 
fully scanning the scraps of bazaar talk; and they 
learned about Harar Lai, the babu, and they evinced 
great interest. 

The next morning the three were gone. But they 
had left ample payment for their entertainment. For 
in the shade of a great babul tree stood a brand-new 
idol, a Mahadeo which was so exceedingly ugly and 
bestial and obscene that it was certain to bring prosper 
ity to the village, especially to the peasant who had 
been the host of the three so dirty, the three so holy 
men. 

Soon its fame spread. Little chaplets of flowers 
were offered to the holy emblem of creation, and thin- 



GRAFTER AND MASTER GRAFTER 157 

lipped, weary-eyed men and patient, onyx-eyed women 
sent up many pathetic prayers to the grinning, staring, 
sensual idol. And the idol prospered. It shone with 
plentiful libations of ghee, and was more ugly and 
more holy than ever. The very babul tree did homage 
to it. For a gorgeous loofah creeper which for many 
hot and many cold weathers had used the tree for 
support and nourishment sent down strong shoots and 
encircled with its sweet-smelling, lascivious flowers the 
neck and the arms of the Mahadeo. 

The babu saw it. He considered it. He was angry. 
For here was something in the village which could 
not be assisted with a mortgage at a reasonable rate 
of interest. Mahadeos are gods. Gods do not need 
money; only the fakirs, the Holy Men who serve the 
gods, need money. 

Let it be understood that Harar Lai had no inten 
tion of fooling with the Mahadeo. He was a Hindu. 
He was deeply religious. He would sooner have killed 
his fat and beautiful wife than kill a cow. 

Then, one day, the babu discovered how he could 
make the god pay without defiling his caste, without 
committing an irreligious act. On the contrary, he 
would do great honor to the Mahadeo. All he had 
to do, he thought, was to buy the plot of land which 
housed the idol. Of course the peasant would not des 
ecrate the god by removing it from the shade of the 
babul tree which he had chosen for his abode. So he 
would buy a plot of land and would then acquire a 
reputation for sanctity by erecting a temple over it. 
He would spread the tale of the Mahadeo through the 
countryside. He would advertise in the Bande Mahr- 
attam and other native papers; perhaps even in the 
English press, the Bombay Times, the Englishman, 



158 ALIEN SOULS 

the Pioneer. There would be many offerings laid at 
the feet of the god. He would be the owner of the 
temple. He had a brother-in-law who was a Brahmin 
priest. Together they would collect the offerings. The 
plan was simple. 

But the owner of the land absolutely refused to part 
with it. Neither cajolings nor threats were of the 
slightest avail. 

"No, no!" exclaimed the superstitious ryot. "No, 
by Karma! I will not part with what the gods have 
sent me. The Mahadeo has brought luck to my 
house. Three weeks ago my wife gave birth to twin 
sons. And though she drank buttermilk, she did not 
die. Behold what a powerful Mahadeo he is! Also 
be pleased to observe his face. How ugly, how bestial, 
how obscene! No, there was never Mahadeo like 
mine." 

About this time one of the three fakirs, Krishna 
Chucker-jee by name, came again to the village. He 
was dirtier and holier than ever. Again he visited the 
house of the peasant. Again he asked for food and 
drink and cowdung fuel. Gladly the peasant gave. 
He kissed the Holy Man s feet. 

Then he told him about the babu s offer. 

"Five times Harar Lai has asked me to sell him the 
plot of land which houses the Mahadeo. Five times 
I have refused. And each time the babu forecloses 
on some of my land. What shall I do, O Holy Man ?" 

The fakir blessed the peasant. He praised him for 
his devotion. He told him that in a month he would 
receive the answer to his question. But in the mean 
time he was not to breathe a word to anybody about 
his, the fakir s, second visit. Also he needn t worry 



GRAFTER AND MASTER GRAFTER 159 

about the mortgages. Everything would be straight 
ened out. 

"See, my friend," he concluded. "For fifteen years 
neither water nor soap nor scissors have defiled my 
body. Daily I grow and gain in holiness and filth. 
Tell me, have you ever seen so much holiness, so much 
filth, before?" 

"No, beloved one of the gods," stammered the 
peasant. 

"Then trust in me. Everything will be straight 
ened out. Even to-night I shall cover my body with 
ashes and cowdung. Have faith . . . and the gods 
will be good to you. Praised be the many gods!" 

The fakir left, again swearing the peasant to 
secrecy. 

Three days afterwards the babu was on the furthest 
confines of the village, surveying with grim interest 
the crops on which he held mortgages, when five fakirs 
appeared suddenly before him. 

They were naked. Their beards and hair were 
matted. Their lean bodies were covered with dirt and 
perspiration. Their finger nails had grown into long, 
twisted, fantastic curves and knots. Even at two 
miles, with a fair wind, your nose would have con 
vinced you of their exceeding holiness. 

So the babu bowed before them. 

"Salaam, O babu-jee," exclaimed the oldest and 
dirtiest of the five. "I have a message for thee." 

"Salaam, O Harar Lai," rejoined the other four 
in the heavy, impressive manner of a Greek tragedy 
chorus. "We have a message for thee." 

The babu was surprised that they knew his name, 
and he asked them how they knew it. 



i6p ALIEN SOULS 

And Krishna Chucker-jee, the guru, the oldest of 
the five, answered : 

"We know many things, O babu-jee. We are Holy 
Men, beloved of the gods. Behold our filth! We 
know that at the age of fifteen thou didst leave thy 
home in Shahjahanabad, and that thou hadst only five 
rupees in thy waistband. We know that the gods 
smiled on thee, and that thou didst prosper exceed 
ingly. All is known concerning thee. And now the 
gods have ordered us five to travel many miles be 
cause they wish to build a temple in thy village to the 
Mahadeo. Thus the gods send thee message through 
us." 

"Be pleased to deliver it," said the babu, amazed at 
their intimate knowledge of his affairs. 

But Krishna Chucker-jee replied in a dignified and 
haughty manner : 

"Patience, O babu-jee. Patience! For remember 
that patience is the key of relief, and that nothing 
comes to an end except the beard of the beardless. 
Patience, then !" 

He squatted on the ground. He rolled up his eyes 
in a thoroughly disgusting and very bewildering man 
ner. His disciples crowded around him. 

"Hush!" they admonished the banker. "Hush, O 
babu-jee ! The guru is now communing with the deity, 
with Shiva." And they gave a well-trained shudder, 
in which the babu joined involuntarily. 

Suddenly the guru gave a great sigh. He jumped 
up. His eyes assumed once more their normal, beady 
focus. He scratched his long, matted hair with his 
claw-like hands.- Then he addressed the babu in gentle 
tones. 

"Shiva has whispered to me. At the appointed hour 



GRAFTER AND MASTER GRAFTER 161 

everything shall be made most clear. But first it is 
necessary that thou, O babu-jee, shouldst give us food 
for twelve days. At the end of the twelve days my 
four chelas shall go away. Eight days more I shall 
abide with thee, and then the message shall be given 
to thee. For the gods are pleased with thee, and they 
have heard of thy pious desires in the matter of the 
Mahadeo." 

Here he winked furiously at the peasant who hap 
pened to pass by and who was watching the scene 
with open mouth and staring eyes. 

The jubilant babu did as he was bidden. For ta 
his Eastern mind there was nothing incredible in such 
an occurrence. 

For twelve days the guru and his four chelas were 
the guests of the babu. Then they departed. Only 
Krishna Chucker-jee remained in the house of the 
banker. 

The guru had an earnest talk with his host. He 
told him that during the eight days which intervened 
between that day and the delivery of the message he 
must prepare himself and purify his mind and soul by 
deeds of charity, ceremonious visits to the Mahadeo, 
and complicated devotional exercises. 

He could rest assured that every rupee given away 
in charity would be returned a hundredfold to him. 

"Wherefore hold not thy hand," said the ascetic at 
the end of his pious exhortation. 

Strictly the babu obeyed the instructions of the 
Holy One. He tore up mortgages and he distributed 
food and coins to the gaping villagers. 

Eight long days passed. On the morning of the 
ninth day, Krishna Chucker-jee ordered the babu to- 
fetch a new earthenware jar, two cubits of khassa 



1 62 ALIEN SOULS 

cloth and a seer of attah flour. And now he would 
see how everything that he had given away in charity 
would be restored by the gods a hundredfold. 

As a token he told him to bring a rupee, and, tak 
ing it from the babu, he asked him to prostrate him 
self on the ground and to say certain lengthy passages 
from the Kata Upanishad, while he himself wrapped 
the rupee in the cloth, placed it in the pot, emptied 
the attah flour a-top, and then closed the mouth of the 
jar with a piece of khassa cloth which was sealed with 
the babu s own signet-ring. Then he told the babu 
to hide the jar somewhere in the open country. 

The next day the jar was brought back. Nobody 
had tampered with it. The seal was intact. But, 
miraculous to relate, when the cloth was removed and 
ihe jar opened, there were two rupees wrapped in the 
cloth instead of one. 

Three times the ceremony was repeated, with the 
same prostrations and prayers on the babu s part, 
while the guru sealed the jar. And finally the rupee 
had grown to be eight. 

"Thou aft beloved by the gods," said Krishna 
Chucker-jee. "Thy deeds of charity smell sweet in 
their holy nostrils. Again I admonish thee : hold not 
thy hand!" 

And the babu did as he was bid. He held not his 
hand. He tore up all the other mortgages he had and 
returned many acres of land to the original owners, 
the peasants of the village. 

"The period of probation has passed," said the 
guru. 

Followed a day of prayer and fasting, and on the 
next morning the babu was told by Krishna Chucker- 
jee to bring an extra large jar and to fetch all his 



GRAFTER AND MASTER GRAFTER 163 

currency notes, all his gold and silver coins, his own 
jewels and those of his beautiful, fat wife. 

"Fill the jar with them," said the guru. "But leave 
sufficient room on top so that the gods can double 
them." 

The babu did as he was told. He was jubilant. 
Then Chucker-jee asked him to prostrate himself and 
to recite an especially long passage from the Kata 
Upanishad. Meanwhile he himself closed and sealed 
the jar. 

Devotional exercises orer, he directed Harar Lai to 
carry away the jar to a spot twenty times as far as 
the one which had contained the jar with the one 
rupee, and to guard it until the following dawn. 

"Cease not to pray for a single minute," continued 
the Holy Man. "Let none approach thee or speak to 
thee. Do not fall asleep. Fast until thou comest here 
again. Obey strictly, so as not to kindle divine anger." 

The babu obeyed. He took the jar and carried it 
a long distance into the country. He watched it. He 
allowed nobody to approach. He prayed incessantly. 
But, finally, worn out with his fastings and his 
prayers, he fell asleep. 

The sun was high in the heavens and the shadows 
pointing northward when he awoke. Terror gripped 
his heart when he thought that he might have angered 
the Mahadeo by failing in his vigil. He seized the 
jar in alarm. He examined it carefully. But the 
seals were intact. Nobody had tampered with his 
treasures. So he felt relieved. Again he watched 
and prayed. 

Finally he could not stand the suspense any longer. 
He picked up the jar and returned to the house. 

The fakir was not there. He searched through house 



164 ALIEN SOULS 

and garden. But there was no sign of the Holy Man. 

He called loudly: 

"Guru-jee ... O guru-jee!" 

But no answer came. Then he inquired of the 
villagers, but none had seen the Holy One. 

Then he thought that perhaps the guru had set out 
in search of him and would return sooner or later. 
And he waited a long time till finally anxiety and 
hunger got the better of his fear. He ate, and then 
he opened the jar with the proper ceremonies . . . 

But the gods had not doubled his riches. In fact, 
they had removed them altogether and had put in their 
place three large and heavy bricks. 

The babu sat down and wept. That was the end of 
all things. To call in the police to aid him against 
the gods would be a futility. He visited the babul 
tree and looked at the Mahadeo. And it seemed to 
him that the Mahadeo was solemnly winking at him. 

And a great fury seized him by the throat. He 
cursed the deities of his native land. 

And six months later the Christian Messenger 
printed the glorious news that another pagan, this 
time a high-class Brahmin, a charitable native Indian 
banker, after giving away all his wealth in charities 
to the village where he lived, and tearing up all the 
mortgages he owned, had been converted to the True 
Faith; and had even risked his life and been severely 
beaten because in his righteous new zeal he had en 
deavored to break a horrid and grinning Mahadeo 
idol which stood in the shade of a great babul tree 
at the confines of the village. 



THE LOGICAL TALE OF THE FOUR 
CAMELS 

IN Sidi-el-Abas it was spring, white spring, and the 
pale peace of perfumed dawn. 

We were smoking and dreaming, too indolent to 
speak, each waiting for his neighbor to open the 
trickling stream of soft, lazy conversation. At last, 
Ibrahim Fadlallah, the Egyptian, turned to the young 
Englishman and said: 

"Soon, oh my dear, you will return to your own 
country, so listen to the moral tale I am about to 
tell, so that you can take back to your own people 
one lesson, one small lesson which will teach you 
how to use the manly virtues of honor, self-restraint, 
and piety all accomplishments in which you unbe 
lievers are sadly deficient. Give me a cigarette, oh 
my beloved. Ah, thanks; and now listen to what 
happened in Ouadi-Halfa between Ayesha Zemzem, 
the Sheik Seif Ed-din, and Hasaballah Abdelkader, a 
young Bedouin gentleman, who is very close to my 
heart. 

"The Sheik was a most venerable man, deeply 
versed in the winding paths of sectarian theology 
he had even studied the Sunna and of a transcend 
ent wisdom which his disciples declared to be greater 
than that of all the other Sheiks. 

"But even in your own country it may be that 

165 



166 ALIEN SOULS 

sanctity of the mind and grace of the dust created 
body do not always match. Indeed, the Sheik s beard 
was scanty and of a mottled color; he was not over- 
clean, especially when you consider that as a most 
holy man he was supposed to be most rigorous in his 
daily ablutions. He had grown fat and bulky with 
years of good living; for tell me, should not a holy 
man live well so that he may reach a ripe old age, 
and that many growing generations of disciples may 
drink the clear drops of honeyed piety which fall from 
his lips? 

"Besides, to compensate for the many piastres he 
spent on himself, he tightened the strings of his purse 
when it came to paying for the wants of his large 
household. He said it was his duty to train his sons 
and the mothers of his sons in the shining virtue of 
abstemiousness, asking them to repeat daily the words 
in the book of the Koran : Over-indulgence is a most 
vile abomination in the ^yes of Allah. 

"His first two wives had grown gray, and, his old 
heart yearning for the untaught shyness of youth, he 
had taken as the third, Ayesha Zemzem, the daughter 
of the morning. My dear, do not ask me to describe 
her many charms. My chaste vocabulary could never 
do her justice. Besides, do you not know that 
our women go decently veiled before strangers? 
Thus who am I to know what I am not allowed to 
see? 

"Suffice it to say that she was a precious casket filled 
with the arts of coquetry, that she was tall and slender 
as the free cypress, that her forehead was as the 
moon on the seventh day and her black eyes taverns 
of sweetest wine. But the heart of woman acknowl 
edges no law, respects no master except the one she 



THE TALE OF THE FOUR CAMELS 167 

appoints herself, and so it was that Ayesha had no love 
for the Sheik in spite of his white sanctity, and though 
he knew the Koran and all the commentaries by heart. 

"And then one day she saw Hasaballah, and her 
veil dropping by chance, he saw her. 

"Hasaballah had but lately returned from that 
famed asylum of learning and splendor, that abode of 
the Commander of the Faithful, the noble town of 
Stamboul. He had come back dressed in robes of 
state, and when he donned his peach-colored coat em 
broidered with cunning Persian designs in silver and 
gold, the men in the bazaar looked up from their work 
and exclaimed : Look at him who with his splendor 
shames the light of the mid-day sun/ 

"He was indeed a true Osmanli for all his Bedouin 
blood, and the soft fall of his large Turkish trousers, 
which met at the ankle, the majestic lines of his silken 
burnous, the bold cut of his famed peach-colored coat, 
were the despair of all the leading tailors in Ouadi- 
Halfa and the envy of all the young bloods. His 
speech was a string of pearls on a thread of gold. He 
walked lithely, with a jaunty step, swaying from side 
to side. He was like a fresh-sprung hyacinth and the 
master of many hearts. 

"I said that Ayesha saw him and her veil was low 
ered; and you, oh my dear, you know the heart of 
man, and you also know what many women shall al 
ways desire. You will not be shocked when I tell you 
that on the very same night you could have seen 
Hasaballah leaning against the wall in the shadow of 
the screened balcony which protruded from the Sheik s 
harem ; and there he warbled certain appropriate lines 
which I had taught him. Indeed, I had used them 
myself with great effect on a former occasion. 



168 ALIEN SOULS 

" I am a beggar and I love a Queen. 

Tis thee, beloved, upon whose braided locks 

The fez lies as a rose-leaf on the brook; 

Tis thee whose breath is sweetest ambergris, 

Whose orbs are dewdrops which the lilies wear. 

"Claptrap! Oh, I don t know. You should have 
heard Hasaballah s own effort. He was going to ad 
dress her as blood of my soul/ but I thought it alto 
gether too extravagant. The time to woo a woman is 
when you first see her, and the way to woo her is the 
old-fashioned way. Flatteries never grow old, and I 
always use the time-honored similes. 

"I tell her that she is as beautiful as the pale moon, 
that her walk is the walk of the king-goose, that the 
corners of her mouth touch her pink ears, that she has 
the waist of a lion, and that her voice is sweeter than 
the song of the Kokila-bird. 

"But permit me to continue my tale. 

"Two hours later Hasaballah and Ayesha knocked 
at my gate, and, touching my knee, asked me for hos 
pitality and protection, which I granted them, having 
always been known as the friend of the oppressed and 
the persecuted. And early the following morning the 
Sheik came to my house, and I received him with open 
arms as the honored guest of my divan. 

"After partaking of coffee and pipe he said : 

" Ibrahim, last night when I went to the women s 
quarter to join my female household in their midnight 
prayer, the weeping slaves told me that Ayesha had 
run away. Great was my grief and fervent my 
prayers, and when sleep at last closed my swollen 
eyelids I saw in my dreams the angels Gabriel and 
Michael descend from heaven. They took me on their 



THE TALE OF THE FOUR CAMELS 169 

shining wings into the seventh hall of Paradise, and 
there I saw the Messenger Mohammed (on whom be 
praises) sitting on a throne of pearls and emeralds, 
and judging men and jinn. 

" And the Prophet (peace on him) said to me : "Go 
thott in the morning to the house of my beloved and 
obedient servant Ibrahim Fadlallah, where thou shalt 
find Ayesha, and with her a certain good-for-nought 
young scoundrel, whom thou shouldst carry before the 
Kadi and have punished with many lashes." Thus, O 
Ibrahim, obeying the commands of the blessed Prophet 
(on whom peace), I ask you to give up to me Ayesha 
and Hasaballah, that I may kill the woman and have 
the man much beaten, according to the wise and merci 
ful law of the Koran/ 

"And I replied : O most pious Sheik, your tale is 
strange indeed, though amply corroborated by what I 
am about to relate. For last night, after the fugitives 
had asked me for protection, I also prayed fervently 
to Allah (indeed He has no equal), and in my dreams 
the angels Gabriel and Michael carried me on wide 
spread wings into the seventh hall of Paradise, even 
into the presence of the Messenger Mohammed (on 
whom be benedictions). 

"And the Prophet (deep peace on him) turned to 
me and said : 

" Ibrahim, the pious and learned Sheik Seif Ed-din 
has just left the abode of the righteous to return to 
his earthly home. I gave him certain orders, but 
after he left I reconsidered my decision. When he 
visits you in the morning, tell him it is my wish that 
he should leave Hasaballah undisturbed in the posses 
sion of the woman he has stolen, and should accept 
two camels in payment of her. 



i/o ALIEN SOULS 

"The Sheik pondered awhile, and replied: 
" Verily it says in the most holy book of the Koran 
that Allah loveth those who observe justice, and that 
the wicked who turn their backs on the decisions of 
the Prophet (on whom peace) are infidels who shall 
hereafter be boiled in large cauldrons of very hot oil. 
Now tell me, Ibrahim, are you sure that last night the 
Prophet (peace on him) did not say that I should 
accept four camels, and not two, in payment of the 
bitter loss inflicted on my honor and dignity? In 
deed, for four camels Hasaballah may keep the woman, 
provided the animals be swift-footed and of a fair 
pedigree. Upon those two points I must insist. 

"Then, oh my eyes! I thought that bargaining is 
the habit of Jews and Armenians, and I sent word to 
Hasaballah to give four camels to the Sheik. And 
everybody was happy, everybody s honor was satis 
fied, and there was but little scandal and no foul- 
mouthed gossip to hurt the woman s reputation. 

"I have told you how we Moslems, being the wisest 
of mankind, settle affairs of honor and love. Tell me, 
do you not think that our way is better than your 
crude Christian method of airing such matters in a 
public court of law, and of announcing to a jeering 
world the little details of harem life and of love mis 
placed?" 

After a moment s reflection the Englishman replied : 
"I must say, since you ask me, that I consider yours 
a disgraceful way of bargaining for a few camels 
where the shame of a misled woman and the honor of 
an outraged husband are in the balance. In my coun 
try, as you say, the whole affair would have been aired 
in court and considered from every possible point of 
view, thus giving the respondent, the petitioner, and 



THE TALE OF THE FOUR CAMELS 171 

the co-respondent equally fair chances. The judge 
finally, according to our strict though humane law, 
would have pronounced a divorce decree in favor of 
the Sheik, and would have sentenced Hasaballah to 
pay to the Sheik a heavy fine a fine of many hun 
dreds of pounds." 

And Ibrahim interrupted quickly : 

"But, beloved one, you have no camels in your 
country." 



THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 

HE judged each act of the passing days by three 
pictures in the back cells of his brain. These pictures 
never weakened, never receded; neither during his 
meals, which he shared with the other students at Frau 
Grosser s pension in the Dahlmannstrasse, nor during 
his hours of study and research spent over glass tubes 
and crucibles and bottles and retorts in the Royal 
Prussian Chemical Laboratory overlooking Unter den 
Linden, with Professor Kreutzer s grating, sarcastic 
yoice at his left ear, the rumbling basso of the profes 
sor s German assistants at his right. 

There was one picture which showed him the island 
of Kiushu rising from the cloudy gray of the China 
Sea, black-green with cedar and scarlet with autumn 
maple, and the pink snow of cherry fluffing April and 
early May; the island which stood to him for princely 
Satsuma, and Satsuma; since he was a samurai, per 
mitted to wear two swords, the daito and the shoto 
for the whole of Japan. 

There was the picture of his grandfather, the Mar 
quis Takagawa his father had gone down fighting 
his ship against the Russians under Makarov who 
in his youth had drawn the sword for the Shogun 
against the Mikado in the train of Saigo, the rebel 
chief, who had finally made his peace with his sov 
ereign lord and had given honorable oath that he 
would lay the lives, the courage, and the brains of 

172 



THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 173 

his descendants for all time to come on the altar of 
Nippon to atone for the sin of his hot youth. 

There was, thirdly, the memory of his old tutor, 
Komoto, a bonze of the Nichiren sect who had made 
senaji pilgrimages to the thousand shrines, who had 
taught him the Chinese classics from the Diamond 
Sutra to the King-Kong-King, later on the wisdom 
of Ogawa and Kimazawa and the bushi no ichi-gon 
the lessons of Bushido, the lore of the two-handed 
sword, the ancient code of Nippon chivalry. 

"The spiritual light of the essential being is pure," 
Komoto had said to the marquis when the governors 
of the cadet school at Nagasaki had decided that the 
young samurai s body was too weak, his eyes too short 
sighted, his blood too thin to stand the rigorous mili 
tary training of modern Japan. "It is not affected by 
the will of man. It is written in the book of Kung 
Tzeu that not only the body but also the brain can 
raise a levy of shields against the enemy." 

"Yes," the marquis had replied; for he, too, was 
versed in the Chinese classics. "Ships that sail the 
ocean, drifting clouds, the waning moon, shores that 
are washed away these are symbolic of change. 
These, and the body. But the human mind is essen 
tial, absolute, changeless, and everlasting. O Taka- 
mori-san!" He had turned to his grandson. "You 
will go to Europe and learn from the foreigners, with 
your brain, since your body is too weak to carry the 
burden of the two-handed sword. You will learn 
with boldness, with patience, and with infinite trouble. 
You will learn not for reward and merit, not for your 
self, but for Nippon. Every grain of wisdom and 
knowledge that falls from the table of the foreigners 
you will pick up and store away for the needs of the 



174 ALIEN SOULS 

Rising Sun. You will learn and learn. But you will 
learn honorably. For you are a samurai, O Taka- 
mori-san !" 

And so the young samurai took ship for Europe. 
He was accompanied by Kaguchi, an old family serv 
ant, short, squat, flat-nosed, dark of skin and long of 
arm. A low-caste he was who had sunk his person 
ality in that of the family whom his ancestors had 
been serving for generations, who had never consid 
ered his personal honor but only that of his master s 
clan which to him stood for the whole of Nippon. 

If Takagawa Takamori had been small among the 
short, sturdy daimios of Kiushu, he seemed wizened 
and diminutive among the long-limbed, well-fleshed 
men of Prussia and Mecklenburg, and Saxony who 
crowded the chemical laboratory of Professor Kreut- 
zer. Gentlemen according to the stiff, angular, ram 
rod German code, they recognized that the little parch 
ment-skinned, spectacled Asian was a gentleman ac 
cording to his own code, and so, while they pitied him 
after the manner of big blond men, lusty of tongue, 
hard of thirst and greedy of meat, they sympathized 
with him. They even liked him; and they tried to 
help him when they saw his narrow-lidded, myopic 
eyes squint over tomes and long-necked glass retorts 
in a desperate attempt to assimilate in six short semes 
ters the chemical knowledge which Europe had gar 
nered in the course of twice a hundred years. 

Professor Kreutzer, who had Semitic blood in his 
veins and was thus in the habit of leaping at a subject 
from a flying start and handling it with consciously 
dramatic swiftness, was frequently exasperated at Ta- 
kagawa s slowness of approach and comprehension. 
On the other hand, his German training and traditions 



iTHE TWO-HANDED SWORD 175 

made him appreciate and admire the student s Asiatic 
tenacity of purpose, his steel-riveted thoroughness and 
efficiency which made it impossible for him to forget 
a fact which he had once mastered and stored away. 
Perhaps his method of learning was parrotlike. Per 
haps his memory was mechanical, automatic, the fruit 
of his early schooling when, with the mountain wind 
blowing icy through the flimsy shoji walls, he had knelt 
in front of Komoto and had laboriously learned by 
heart long passages from the Yuen-Chioh and the eru 
dite commentaries of Lao-tse. Whatever the basic 
cause, whatever his method, the result was peculiar 
and startling to his fellow students. Given a certain 
discussion, a certain argument which sent his German 
class-mates scuttling for library and reference books, 
the young samurai seemed to turn on a special spigot 
in his brain and give forth the desired information 
like a sparkling stream. 

"Sie sind ja so n echter Wunderknabe, Sie Miniatur 
gelbe Gefahr!" (for that s what he called him: a 
"miniature yellow peril") the professor would ex 
claim ; and he would give him a resounding slap on the 
back which would cause the little wizened body to 
shake and smart. 

But, sensing the kindliness beneath rough words 
and rougher gesture, Takagawa would bow old-fash- 
ionedly, with his palms touching his knees, and suck 
in his breath noisily. 

He was learning learning honorably ; and at night, 
when he returned to his rooms in the pension, he 
would go over the garnered wisdom of the day to 
gether with Kaguchi, his old servant. Word for word 
he would repeat to him what he had learned, until the 
latter, whose brain was as that of his master per- 



i?6 ALIEN SOULS 

sistent, parrotlike, mechanical could reel off the 
chemical formulae with the ease and fluency of an an 
cient professor gray in the craft. He had no idea 
what the barbarous foreign sounds meant. But they 
amused him. Also he was proud that his young mas 
ter understood their meaning his young master who 
stood to him for Kiushu and the whole of Nippon. 

Summer of the year 1914 found Takagawa still at 
work under Professor Kreutzer, together with half a 
dozen German students who like himself were using 
the Long Vacations for a postgraduate course in spe 
cial chemical research, and a Prussian officer, a Lieu 
tenant Baron Horst von Eschingen, who on his arrival 
was introduced by the professor as "a rara avis indeed 
pardon me, baron !" with a lop-sided, sardonic grin 
"a brass-buttoned, much-gallooned, spurred, and booted 
East-Elbian Junker who is graciously willing to de 
scend into the forum of sheepskin and learned dust 
and stinking chemicals, and imbibe knowledge at the 
feet of as humble a personage as myself." 

The German students laughed boisterously, while 
the baron smiled. For it was well known throughout 
the empire that Professor Kreutzer was a Liberaler 
who disliked bureaucratic authority, sneered at the 
military, and was negligent of imperial favor. 

From the first Takagawa felt a strong liking and 
even kinship for Baron von Eschingen. He under 
stood him. The man, tall, lean, powerful, red-faced, 
ponderous of gesture and raucous of speech, was nev 
ertheless a samurai like himself. There was no doubt 
of it. It showed in his stiff punctiliousness and also 
in his way of learning rather of accepting teaching. 
For the professor, who welcomed the opportunity of 
bullying with impunity a member of the hated ruling 



THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 177 

classes, took a delight in deviling the baron s soul, in 
baiting him, in putting to him sudden questions hard 
to solve and pouncing on him when the answer did 
not come swift enough, with such remarks as: "Of 
course, lieber Herr Leutnant, what can I expect ? This 
is not a hollow square, nor a firing squad, nor any 
thing connected with martingale or rattling scabbard. 
This is science the humble work of the proletariat 
and, by God, it needs the humble brain of the prole 
tariat to understand it." 

Another time the baron was specializing in poison 
ous gases and their effect on the human body the 
professor burst out with : "I can t get it through my 
head why you find it so terribly difficult to master the 
principles of gas. I have always thought that the 
army is making a specialty of gas bags !" 

Von Eschingen would bite his mustache and blush. 
But he would not reply to the other s taunts and gibes ; 
and Takagawa knew that the baron, too, was learn 
ing; learning honorably; nor because of reward and 
merit. 

They worked side by side through the warm, soft 
July afternoons while the sun blazed his golden pano 
ply across a cloudless sky and the scent of the linden 
trees, drifting in through the open windows, cried 
them out to field and garden cramming their minds 
with the methodical devices of exact science, staining 
their hands with sharp acids and crystals, with the pro 
fessor wielding his pedagogic whip, criticizing, sneer 
ing, mercilessly driving. More than once, when Kreut- 
zer s back was turned, Takagawa would help the 
baron, whisper him word or chemical formula from 
the fund of his tenacious Oriental brain, and then the 
two would laugh like naughty schoolboys, the German 



178 ALIEN SOULS 

with short, staccato bursts of merriment, the Japan 
ese discreetly, putting his hand over his mouth. 

Finally one afternoon as they were leaving the 
laboratory together and were about to go their sepa 
rate ways at the corner of the Dorotheenstrasse, Ta- 
kagawa bowed ceremoniously before the officer and, 
painfully translating in his mind from the Chinese 
book of etiquette into Japanese and thence into the 
harsh vagaries of the foreign tongue, begged him to 
tie the strings of his traveling cloak and deign to set 
his honorable feet in the miserable dwelling of Taka- 
gawa Takamori, there to partake of mean food and 
entirely worthless hospitality. 

Baron von Eschingen smiled, showing his fine, 
white teeth, clicked his heels, and accepted; and the 
following evening found the curious couple in Taka- 
gawa s room: the former in all the pale-blue and sil 
ver glory of his regimentals, the latter, having shed 
his European clothes, wrapped in a cotton crepe robe 
embroidered on the left shoulder with a single pink 
chrysanthemum, queer and hieratic the mon, the 
coat of arms of his clan. 

To tell the truth, the baron had brought with him 
a healthy, meat-craving German appetite, and he felt 
disappointed when all his host offered him was a plate 
of paper-thin rice wafers and some very pale, very 
tasteless tea served in black celadon cups. His dis 
appointment changed to embarrassment when the Jap 
anese, before filling the cups, went through a lengthy 
ceremony, paying exaggerated compliments in halting 
German, extolling his guest s nobility, and laying stress 
on his own frightful worthlessness. 

"And the funny little beggar did it with all the dig 
nity of a hidalgo," the baron said the next morning 



THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 179 

to a major in his regiment who had spent some years 
as military attache in Japan. "Positively seemed to 
enjoy it." 

The major laughed. "Why," he replied, "you ought 
to feel highly honored. For that Jap paid you no 
end of a compliment. He has initiated you into the 
cha-no-yu, the honorable ceremony of tea sipping, thus 
showing you that he considers you his equal." 

"His his equal ?" flared up the other, who, away 
from the laboratory, was inclined to be touchy on 
points of family and etiquette. 

"To be sure. Didn t you say his name is Taka- 
gawa Takamori ?" 

"Yes." 

"Well the Takagawas are big guns in their own 
land. They don t make em any bigger. They are 
relatives of the Mikado, cousins to all the feudal 
houses of Satsuma, descendants of the gods, and what 
not" 

It was not altogether snobbishness which caused the 
German to cultivate the little Asiatic after that. He 
really liked him. At the end of a few weeks they 
were friends strangely assorted friends who had not 
much in common except chemistry, who had not much 
to talk about except acids and poisonous gases. But 
they respected each other, and many a sunny afternoon 
found them strolling side by side through the crowded 
thoroughfares of Berlin, the baron swinging along 
with his long, even step, the tip of his scabbard 
smartly bumping against the asphalt, while Taka- 
gawa tripped along very much like a small, owlish 
child, peering up at the big man through the concave 
lenses of his spectacles. 

Only once did the samurai mention the reasons 



i8o ALIEN SOULS 

which had brought him to Europe. Tfiey were pass 
ing the Pariser Platz at the time, and stopped and 
turned to look at the half company of Grenadiers of 
the Guard who were marching through the Branden- 
burger Thor to change the castle watch, shoulders 
squared, rifles at the carry, blue-clad legs shooting 
forth at right angles, toes well down, the spotless 
metal on spiked helmet and collar and belt mirroring 
the afternoon sun, while the drum major shook his 
horse-tailed bell tree and a mounted captain jerked 
out words of command: 

"Achtung! Augen links! Vorwarts! Links an! 
Links an! Marsch!" 

Takagawa pointed a lean, brown finger. 

"The scabbard of my blue steel spear is the liver of 
my enemy," he quoted softly, translating from the 
Japanese. "I carry the red life on my finger tips; 
I have taken the vow of a hero !" and when the baron 
looked down, uncomprehending, asking astonishedly : 
"Hero? Hero?" the other gave a little, crooked smile. 

"The mind too fights when the body is too weak 
to carry the burden of the two-handed sword," he 
explained. "The mind too can be a hero. Mine is!" 
he added, with utter simplicity. "For my body aches 
for the touch of steel, while I force my mind to drink 
the learning of books. My mind bends under the 
strain of it. But I do it for Japan." 

The baron s hand descended on his friend s lean 
shoulder. 

"Yes," he said. "I understand, old boy. I have 
an older brother. No good for the King s coat lost 
a leg when he was a kid. Family shot him into the 
Foreign Ministry. Works like a slave. But, auf 
Ehrenwort, he hates it, the poor old beggar!" and, 



THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 181 

seeing a drop of moisture in the other s oblique eyes, 
he went on hurriedly: "Now, as to that gas that 
new one Kreutzer is driveling about with some un 
earthly, jaw-breaking Greek name and that fine, juicy 
stink to it do you remember how " And a moment 
later they were deep once more in the discussion of 
poison gases. 

July swooned into August and, overnight, it seemed, 
the idyl of peace was spattered out by a brushful of 
blood. Excitement struck Berlin like a crested wave. 
People cheered. People laughed. People wept. A 
conjurer s wand swung from Spandau to Kopenick, 
thence east to Posen, and north and northwest in a 
semicircle, touching Kiel, Hamburg, Cologne, and 
Mayence. A forest of flags sprang up. Soldiers 
marched in never-ending coils down the streets, horse 
and foot, foot again, and the low, dramatic rumbling 
of the guns. They crowded the railway stations from 
Lehrter Bahnhof to Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof. They 
entrained, cheered, were cheered, leaned from carriage 
windows, floppy, unstarched fatigue caps set jauntily 
on close-cropped heads, singing sentimental songs : 

Lebt wohl, ihr Frauen und ihr Madchen, 
Und schafft euch einen And r en an. ... 

The cars pulled away, bearing crudely chalked leg 
ends on their brown sides "This car for Paris!" 
"This car for Brussels!" "This car for Calais!"- 
and, twenty-four hours later, the world was startled 
from stupid, fattening sleep through the news that 
Belgium had been invaded by the gray-green hordes, 
led by generals who had figured out each chance of 
victory and achievement with logarithmic, infallible 



182 ALIEN SOULS 

cunning, and that already the Kaiser had ordered the 
menu which should be served him when he entered 
Paris. 

The wave of war struck the laboratory and the pen 
sion in the Dahlmannstrasse together with the rest of 
Berlin. 

People assumed new duties, new garb, new lan 
guage, new dignity and new psychology. The old 
Germany was gone. A new Germany had arisen a 
colossus, a huge, crunching animal of a country, 
straddling Europe on massive legs, head thrown back, 
shoulders flung wide; proud, defiant! And sullen! 
Takagawa did not understand. He had come to 
Berlin to learn honorably. He was not familiar with 
European politics, and Belgium was only a geograph 
ical term to him. 

War? Of course! War! It meant honor and 
strength and sacrifice. But 

There was Hans Grosser, the only son of Frau 
Grosser, the comfortable, stout Silesian widow who 
kept the pension. Long, lean, pimply, clumsy, an un 
derpaid clerk in the Dresdner Bank, he had been here 
tofore the butt of his mother s boarders. When at the 
end of the meal the Kompottschale, filled with stewed 
fruit, was passed down the table, he was the last to 
help himself, and then apologetically. The day after 
war was declared he came to dinner his last dinner 
before leaving for the front in gray-green, with a 
narrow gold braid on his buckram-stiffened collar, gold 
insignia on his epaulet, a straight saber dragging be 
hind his clicking spurs like a steel-forged tail. Over 
night the negligible clerk had become Herr Leutnant 
second lieutenant in the reserves, detailed to the I24th 
Infantry. The butt had become the potential hero. 



THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 183 

He was listened to, bowed to. He was the first to dip 
the battered silver spoon into the Kompottschale. 

Dinner over, cigars and cigarettes lit, he held court, 
leaning over the piano in all his gray-green glory. He 
received congratulations which he accepted with a 
yawn. But when Takagawa bowed to him, saying 
something very kindly and very stiltified in his awk 
ward German, Grosser looked him up and down as he 
might some exotic and nauseating beetle, and it was 
clear that the other boarders approved of his strange 
conduct. 

It was the same in the laboratory. When he en 
tered the students who were already there turned 
stony eyes upon him. 

"Good morning, gentlemen," he said. A harsh, 
rasping sound, something between a cough and a snort, 
was the reply. 

Only the professor seemed unchanged. 

"Good morning, miniature yellow peril!" he said, 
while the German students formed into a group near 
the window whence they could see the soldiers file 
down Unter den Linden, with the hollow tramp- 
tramp-tramp of drilled feet, the brasses braying out 
their insolent call. 

They seemed silent and grave and stolid, though at 
times given to unreasonable, hectic fits of temper. 
They talked excitedly among themselves about "Welt- 
politik" about "Unser Plats in der Sonne" and 
"Deutsche Ideate." Every once in a while one of them 
would whisper something about "die Engl dnder," 
pronouncing the word as if it were a dread talisman. 
Another would pick up the word: "die Engl dnder," 
with a tense, minatory hiss. Then again they would 
all talk together, excitedly; and once Takagawa, busy 



184 ALIEN SOULS 

with a brass crucible and a handful of pink crystals, 
could hear: "J a P an the situation in the Far East 
Kiauchau " 

Baron von Eschingen, usually punctual to the min 
ute, did not make an appearance at the laboratory 
that morning. 

"Getting ready for the wholesale butchery," the 
professor explained to Takagawa in an undertone. 
"Sharpening his cleaver and putting a few extra teeth 
in his meat saw, I ve no doubt." 

Takagawa felt disappointed. He would have liked 
to say good-by to his friend, ceremoniously. For he 
remembered how his father had gone forth at the 
outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War. He had only 
been a small child at the time, but he recollected every 
thing: how his mother and grandmother had bowed 
low and had spoken unctuously of naijo, of inner help; 
how the little girls of the household had brought their 
Teai-ken dirks to be blessed by the departing warrior; 
how Komoto had quoted long passages from the Po- 
ro-po-lo-mi, reenforcing them with even lengthier 
quotations from the Fuh-ko; how his father had taken 
him to his arms with the true bushi no nasake, the 
true tenderness of a warrior, and how immediately 
after his father had left the women had put on plain 
white linen robes, without hems, as the ancient rites 
prescribe for widows. 

"You you don t think he ll come back here before 
he leaves for the front?" he asked the professor. 

"Certainly," laughed the other. "He isn t through 
yet with these!" indicating a wizardly array of tubes 
and pipes whence acrid, sulphurous fumes were rising 
to be caught, yellow, cloudy, whirling, in a bulb- 
shaped retort which hung from the ceiling. 



[THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 185 

"But he is a samurai, a soldier!" stammered Ta- 
kagawa. "What have these these gases to do with " 

"With war?" Kreutzer gave a cracked laugh. 
"Don t you know?" 

"I know the ingredients. I know how the gas is 
produced." 

"Oh, you do; do you?" 

"Yes." 

And Takagawa, turning on the right spigot in his 
fact-gathering brain, reeled off the correct formula in 
all its intricacies. 

The professor laughed again. "And you mean to 
say," he asked in the same sibilant undertone, "that 
you have no idea what the gas is for that you have 
no idea why Baron von Eschingen has honored us 
these six weeks with his spurred and booted presence ?" 

"Why no!" 

Kreutzer slapped his knees. "Blessed innocence!" 
he chuckled. "Blessed, spectacled, yellow-skinned, 
Asiatic innocence! It is Well, never mind!" 

He turned to the German students who were still 
talking excitedly among themselves. 

"Silentium !" he thundered. "War is all very well, 
gentlemen. But we are not here to kill or to remake 
the map of Europe. We are here to learn about " 
And then a lengthy Greek word and the hush of the 
classroom. 

The baron, who had shed his pale-blue and silver 
regimentals for a uniform of gray-green, came in to 
ward the end of the lesson. He spoke courteously to 
the students, who instinctively stood at attention, shook 
hands with Takagawa with his usual friendliness, and 
drew the professor into a corner where he engaged 
him in a low, heated conversation. 



i86 ALIEN SOULS 

"I won t do it!" Takagawa could hear Kreutzer s 
angry hiss. "The lesson is over. I insist on my 
academic freedom! I am a free burgess of the uni 
versity. I " and the baron s cutting reply : "This is 
war, Herr Professor! I am here by orders of the 
Ministry of War. I order you to " 

Takagawa smiled. Here was the real samurai 
speaking; and he was still smiling ecstatically when, a 
moment later, the professor turned to the class. 

"Go downstairs, meine Herren," he said. "I have 
a private lesson to give to to" he shot out the word 
venomously "to our army dunce! To our saber- 
rattling gray-green hope ! To our so intelligent East- 
Elbian Junker! To" 

"Shut up!" came the baron s harsh voice. "Don t 
you dare, you damned " At once he controlled him 
self. He forced himself to smile. "I am sorry, gen 
tlemen," he said, "to disturb you and to interfere with 
your lessons in any way. But I have some private 
business with the professor. War you know the 
necessities of war " 

"Yes yes " 

"Naturlich!" 

"Selbstverstandlick /" 

"Sie haben ganz Recht, Herr Leutnant!" came the 
chorus of assent, and the students left the laboratory 
together with Takagawa, who went last. 

"Wait for me downstairs, old boy," the baron 
called after him as he was about to close the door. 

Arrived in the street, without civil words or touch 
ing their hats, the German students turned to the left 
to take their "second breakfast" at the Cafe Victoria, 
while Takagawa paced up and down in front of the 
building to wait for his friend. 



[THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 187 

Troops were still marching in never-ending files, 
like a long, coiling snake with innumerable, bobbing 
heads, and crowds of people were packing the side 
walks in a dense mass, from the Brandenburger Thor 
to beyond the Schloss. 

They whirled about Takagawa. A few noticed 
him only a few, since he was so small but these few 
glared at him. They halted momentarily, mumbling : 
"A Japanese!" 

"Ein Ausl dnder!" ( "A foreigner !" ) 

There was sullen, brooding hatred in the word 
where, only yesterday, it had held kindliness and hos 
pitality and tolerance. 

Takagawa stepped back into a doorway. Not that 
he was afraid. He did not know the meaning of the 
complicated emotion called fear, since he was a samu 
rai. But something intangible, something nauseat 
ing and hateful, seemed to float up from the crowd, 
like a veil in the meeting of winds the air, the people, 
the music, everything, suddenly shot through with pe 
culiar, disturbing, prismatic diffractions. 

He was glad when the baron s tall form came from 
the laboratory building. 

"Sorry I kept you waiting," said the officer, slip 
ping his white-gloved hand through the other s arm. 
"I ve only a minute for you at that. Got to rush back 
to headquarters, you know. But a word to the wise 
is your passport in order?" 

"Yes. Why?" 

The baron did not seem to hear the last question. 
He took a visiting card from his pocketbook and scrib 
bled a few rapid words. "Here you are," he said, 
giving the card to Takagawa. "Take this to my friend 
Police Captain von Wilmowitz, at the Presidency of 



i88 ALIEN SOULS 

Police you know near the Spittelmarkt. He ll see 
to it that you get away all right before it s too late 
you, and your old servant, Kaguchi " 

"Get away? Too late? You mean that " 

"That you d better wipe your feet on the outer door 
mat of the German Empire. Get out of the country, 
in other words. Go to Holland, Switzerland any 
where." 

"Why?" 

"War !" came the baron s laconic reply. 

"Yes, but Japan and Germany are not at war !" 

The baron had put back his pocketbook and was 
buttoning his tunic. "I know," he said. "But Eng 
land declared war against us three hours ago, and 
Japan is England s ally. Hurry up. Do what I tell 
you. I ll drop in on you to-night or to-morrow and 
see how you re making out." He turned and came 
back again. 

"By the way," he went on, "be careful about any pa 
pers you take along. Destroy them. Your chemistry 
notebooks the notes you made during class. There s 
that poison gas, for instance." He was silent, hesi 
tated, and continued: "I m sorry about that, Taka- 
gawa. Puts both you and me in a devilishly embar 
rassing position. You see, I had no idea honestly 
that war was due when the powers that be detailed me 
on that chemistry course. I thought it was all a tre 
mendous bluff. Otherwise I would never have dreamt 
of working side by side with you, comparing notes on 
these poison-gas experiments, and all that. Well" he 
shrugged his shoulders "what s the use of crying 
over spilt milk? Burn your notebooks chiefly those 
dealing with the gas." And he was off. 

Jakagawa looked after him, uncomprehending. The 



[THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 189 

poison gas ! Here it was again. The same mysterious 
allusion. First Professor Kreutzer had spoken of it, 
and now the baron. 

But what did they mean? What did it signify? 

Finally, obeying the suggestion of the dusty labora 
tory windows looking down on him from their stone 
frames, Takagawa reentered the building and went 
straight to Professor Kreutzer s lecture room. 

He found the latter seated at his desk, his chin 
cupped in his hands, his haggard face flushed and 
congested. The man seemed to be laboring under an 
excitement which played on every quivering nerve of 
his body; the hand supporting the lean chin showed 
the high-swelling veins, and trembled. 

He looked up as Takagawa entered, and broke into 
a harsh bellow of laughter. "Come back, have you, 
you stunted yellow peril!" 

"Yes. I want to ask you about about the gas." 

Again the professor laughed boisterously. 

"The gas!" he cried. "The poison gas! To be 
sure! Not quite as innocent as you made yourself 
out to be a while back, are you? Well, by God, I ll 
tell you about the poison gas ! Got a remarkable sort 
of brain, haven t you? Retentive faculty abnormally 
developed don t need written notes or any other sort 
of asses bridge, eh? Just as good! Couldn t take 
anything written out of Germany. But your brain 
your tenacious Oriental brain they can t put that to 
the acid test ! All right ! Listen to me !" 

Professor Kreutzer did not stop to dissect himself 
or his motives. He obeyed, not a feeling, a sudden 
impulse, but a pathological mood which was the growth 
of forty years. For forty years he had hated au 
tocratic, imperial Germany. For forty years he had 



190 ALIEN SOULS 

battled with his puny strength against militarism. Now 
the steel-clad beast had won. The shadow of war had 
fallen over the land. His gods lay shattered about 
him. 

Forty years of ill-suppressed hatred brought to a 
head, half an hour earlier, by Baron von Eschingen s 
curt command : "This is war, Herr Professor. I am 
here by orders of the Ministry of War. I order you 
to 

That uniformed, gold-braided jackanapes to order 
him, a scientist, a thinker! 

Kreutzer swore wickedly under his breath. He 
turned to the Japanese, and talked to him at length, 
going with minute care over the whole process of 
making poison gas, from the first innocuous-looking 
pink crystal to the final choking cloudy yellow fumes. 
He made Takagawa repeat it, step by step, formula 
by formula. Finally he declared himself satisfied. 
"You know it now, don t you?" he asked. 

"Yes, sir." 

"You ll never forget it?" 

"No, sir." 

"All right. You have what you came here to get. 
In one respect at least you know as much as the Ger 
man War Office. Go back to Japan as soon as you 
can." He returned to his desk and picked up a book. 

Takagawa went after him. "Herr Professor!" he 
said timidly. 

"Well? What is it now?" 

"I I " the samurai hesitated. "I know the gas. 
I know how it is produced, how it is projected, how it 
affects the human body. I understand all that. But 
what is it for?" 

"You you mean to say you don t know?" 



THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 191 

9 

The professor twirled in his chair, utter incredulity 
in his accents. Then, reading the question in Taka- 
gawa s oblique eyes, sensing that the man was asking 
in perfect good faith, in perfect innocence, he rose, 
took him by the arm, and led him to the window. He 
pointed. Afternoon had melted into a soft evening 
of glowing violet with a pale moon growing faintly 
in the north. The linden trees stood stiff and motion 
less as if forged out of a dark-green metal. But still 
the soldiers tramped. Still there was the glitter of 
rifle barrel and sword tip and lance point. Still crowds 
packed *he sidewalks, cheering. The professor made 
a great gesture. It was more than a mere waving of 
hand and arm. It seemed like an incident which cut 
through the air like a tragic shadow. 

"They are going out to kill with bullet and steel. 
But gas, too, can kill poison gas, projected from 
iron tanks on an unsuspecting, unprepared enemy ! It 
can win a battle, a campaign, a war! It can change 
the course of world history ! It can ram imperial Ger 
many s slavery down the throat of a free world! 
Poison gas it is a weapon the newest, most wicked, 
most effective weapon!" The professor was getting 
slightly hysterical. "Take it back with you to Japan 
to France, to England anywhere! Fight us with 
our own weapons ! Fight us and give us freedom 
freedom!" And, with an inarticulate cry, he pushed 
the Japanese out of doors. 

Takagawa walked down the Dorotheenstrasse like a 
man in a dream. His feelings were tossed together 
into too violent confusion for immediate disentangle 
ment. "You will learn, not for reward and merit, not 
for yourself, but for Japan !" his grandfather, the old 
marquis, had told him. And he had learned a great 



192 ALIEN SOULS 

secret for Japan. And Japan would need it. For, 
passing the newspaper kiosk at the corner of the Wil- 
helmstrasse, he had glanced at the headlines of the 
evening edition of the "Vossische Zeitung"^ 

"Japan Stands by England. Sends Ultimatum. 
War Inevitable!" 

War inevitable and he was a samurai, a man en 
titled to wield the two-handed sword, though his body 
was too weak to carry the burden of it. 

What of it? The professor had told him that 
poison gas, too, was a weapon, the most modern, most 
effective weapon in the world ; and he had its formula 
tucked snugly away in his brain. 

The poison gas! It was his sword! But first he 
must get out of the country. He hailed a taxicab and 
drove straight to the Presidency of Police. A crowd 
of foreigners of all nationalities anxious, nervous, 
shouting, gesticulating was surging in the lower en 
trance hall of the square, baroque building. But the 
baron s card proved a talisman, and in less than half 
an hour Takagawa had seen Police Captain von Wil- 
mowitz, had had his passport viseed and had received 
permission for himself and his servant Kaguchi to 
leave Berlin for Lake Constance on the following day. 

Captain von Wilmowitz repeated the baron s warn 
ing: "Take nothing written out of Germany. 
Neither yourself nor your servant. They ll examine 
you both thoroughly at the Swiss frontier. Be care 
ful," and Takagawa had hidden a smile. 

Let them search his person, his clothes, his baggage. 
They would not be able to search his brain. He 
started figuring rapidly. He would go to Switzer 
land, thence via Paris to London. The Japanese am- 



THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 193 

Bassador there was a second cousin of his. He would 
give him the precious formula, and then 

He returned to the pension in the Dahlmannstrasse, 
settled his bill, and ordered Kaguchi to pack. Note 
book after notebook he burned, and as he worked he 
was conscious of a feeling of power. There was no 
actual presentiment, no psychic preliminaries. It sim 
ply was there, this feeling of power, as if it had al 
ways been there. He was a samurai, and his was the 
two-handed sword a two-handed sword forged in a 
stinking, bulb-shaped glass retort and shooting forth 
yellow, choking, sulphurous fumes. 

In the next room a half dozen Germans were smok 
ing and drinking and singing. He could hear Hans 
Grosser s excited voice, and now and then a snatch of 
song, sentimental, patriotic, boastful, and he thought 
that he too would soon again hear the songs of his 
fatherland, back in the island of Kiushu, in the rocky 
feudal stronghold of the Takagawas. The bards 
would be there singing the old heroic epics; the 
uguisus would warble the old melodies. Komoto 
would be there, and he himself, and his grandfather, 
the marquis. 

"You will learn honorably!" his grandfather had 
told him. And he had learned. He was bringing 
back the fruit of it to Nippon. 

He turned to Kaguchi with a laugh. 

"I have learned, Kaguchi, eh?" 

"Yes," replied the old servant, "you have learned 
indeed, O Takamori-san !" 

"And" he said it half to himself "I have learned 
honorably." 

Honorably? 



194 ALIEN SOULS 

He repeated the word with a mental question mark 
at the end of it. 

Had he learned honorably? 

He stood suddenly quite still. An ashen pallor 
spread to his very lips. He dropped the coat which 
he was folding. Doubt floated upon him impercepti 
bly, like the shadow of a leaf through summer dusk. 
Something reached out and touched his soul, leaving 
the chill of an indescribable uneasiness, and indescrib 
able shame. 

"Honorably!" He whispered the word. 

He sat down near the window, looking out into 
the street. Night had fallen with a trailing cloak of 
gray and lavender. The tall, stuccoed apartment 
houses on the Kurfurstendamm, a block away, rose 
above the line of street lamps like a smudge of sooty 
black beyond a glittering yellow band. Still people 
were cheering, soldiers tramping. 

Kaguchi spoke to him. But he did not hear. He 
stared unseeing. 

He said to himself that he had come to Germany, 
to Berlin, as a guest, to partake of the fruit of wis 
dom and knowledge. Richly the foreigners, the Ger 
mans, had spread the table for him. Generously they 
had bidden him eat. And he had dipped his hands 
wrist-deep into the bowl and had eaten his fill in a 
friend s house, giving thanks according to the law of 
hospitality. 

Then war had come. Belgium, France, England, 
Russia and to-morrow Japan. To-morrow the 
standard of the Rising Sun would unfurl. To 
morrow the trumpets would blow through the streets 
of Nagasaki. Peasants and merchants and samurai 
would rush to arms. 



JHE TWO-HANDED SWORD 195 

And he was a samurai; and he had a weapon, a 
weapon of Germany s own forging the formula for 
the poison gas, safely tucked away in his brain. 

They had taught him in good faith. And he had 
learned. Nor would he be able to forget. 

Professor Kreutzer? He did not count. He was 
a traitor. But his friend, Baron von Eschingen, the 
Prussian samurai who had worked side by side with 
him, who had even helped him get away? 

Takagawa walked up and down. His labored, 
sibilant breathing sounded terribly distinct. From the 
next room there still came excited voices, the clink 
of beer steins, maudlin singing : 

Von alien den Mddchen so blink und so 
blank . . . 

winding up in a tremendous hiccup. But he did not 
hear. In his brain something seemed to flame up 
ward, illuminating all his thoughts. 

They were very clear. He could not stay here, in 
the land of the enemy, while Nippon was girding her 
loins. Nor could he go home. For home he was a 
samurai, entitled to wield the two-handed sword. 
And he carried that sword in his brain, the formula 
for the poison gas. He would be forced forced by 
himself, forced by his love of country to give it to 
Nippon, and thus he would break the law of hos 
pitality, his own honor. 

He had learned the formula honorably. But there 
was no way of using it honorably. 

A great, tearing sob rose in his throat. Then he 
heard a voice at his elbow: "O Takamori-san !" 

He turned. "Yes, Kaguchi?" and, suddenly, the 



196 ALIEN SOULS 

answer to the riddle came to him. He looked at tHe 
old servant. 

"You love me, Kaguchi ?" he asked. 

"My heart is between your hands!" 

"You trust me?" 

Kaguchi drew himself up. 

"You are a samurai, O Takamori-san. The sword 
of Kiushu is unsullied." 

"And unsullied it shall remain ! And so," he added 
incongruously, "you will speak after me the foreign 
words which I shall now teach you, syllable for sylla 
ble, intonation for intonation"; and, step by step, 
formula by formula, he taught Kaguchi the meaning 
less German words. 

For hours he worked with him until the old man 
reeled off the strange sounds without hitch or error. 

"You know now?" he asked him finally, even as 
the professor had asked him earlier in the afternoon. 

"Yes." 

"You ll never forget it?" 

"No." 

Takamori Takagawa smiled. 

"Kaguchi," he said, "you will go from here to 
London, using this passport." He gave him the offi 
cial paper which Herr von Wilmowitz had viseed. 
"In London you will seek out the ambassador of 
Nippon, who is my cousin. You will tell him word 
for word what I have just taught you, adding that 
it is the formula of a poison gas and that this gas is 
mightier than the two-handed sword and will, per 
haps, win the war for Nippon and her allies. You 
will furthermore tell him and let this message be 
transmitted by him to my respected grandfather that 
I learned this formula honorably, but that I could not 



L THE TWO-HANDED SWORD 197 

take it back with me to Nippon without sullying the 
law of hospitality, since the foreigners taught me in 
good faith. I myself, being thus caught between the 
dagger of my honor and the dagger of my country, 
have tried to make a compromise with fate. Honor 
ably I tried to do my duty by Nippon, honorably I 
tried to keep the law of hospitality untainted. I do 
not know if I have succeeded. Thus " he made a 
gesture, and was silent. 

Kaguchi bowed. His rugged old face was motion 
less. But he understood and approved. 

"You ! Ah " the word choked him. 

"Yes." Takamori inclined his head. He used the 
old Chinese simile which his tutor had taught him. 
"I shall ascend the dragon." 

He put his hand on Kaguchi s shoulder. "Come 
back here in half an hour," he said. "Fold my hands 
as the ancient customs demand. Then notify my 
friend, the German samurai. He will help you get 
over the frontier with the formula safe in your 
brain." 

And the servant bowed and left the room without 
another word. 

The young samurai smiled slowly. An old quota 
tion came back to him : "I will open the seat of my 
soul with a dagger of pain and show you how it 
fares with it. See for yourself whether it is polluted 
or clean." 

He walked across the room, opened the mirror 
wardrobe, and took from the top shelf a dirk a splen 
did, ancient blade in a lacquer case, whose guard was 
of wrought iron shaped like a chrysanthemum. Then 
he took off his European clothes and put on a volu 
minous white hemless robe with long, trailing sleeves. 



198 ALIEN SOULS 

Very slowly he knelt. Carefully, according to the 
rites, he tucked the sleeves under his knees, to prevent 
himself falling backward, since a samurai should die 
falling forward. He took the dirk from the scabbard. 

The next moment it had disappeared beneath the 
flowing draperies. He made a hardly perceptible 
movement. One corner of his mouth was slightly 
twisted, the first sign of great suffering heroically 
borne. His right leg was bent back, his left knee too. 
Then he drew the dirk slowly across to his right side 
and gave a cut upward. 

Crimson stained his white robe. His eyes, glazed, 
staring, held a question a question, a doubt to the 
last. Had he acted honorably? Had he ? 

He fell forward. . . . 

It was thus that Baron von Eschingen, ushered in 
by Kaguchi, found him. 

"Hara-kiri!" he said, drawing a sheet across the 
dead man s face; and then, quite suddenly: "Yes 
yes. I understand honorable little beggar!" 



BLACK POPPIES 

DELICATELY, with nervous, agile fingers he kneaded 
the brown poppy cube against the tiny bowl of his 
pipe, then dropped it into the open furnace of the 
lamp and watched the flame change it gradually into 
amber and gold. 

The opium boiled, sizzled, dissolved, evaporated. 
The fragrant, opalescent smoke rolled in sluggish 
clouds over the mats, and Yung Han-Rai, having 
emptied the pipe at one long-drawn inhalation, leaned 
back, both shoulders pressed well down on the square, 
hard, leather pillows, so as better to inflate his chest 
and keep his lungs filled all the longer with the fumes 
of the kindly drug. 

The noises of the outer world seemed very far 
away. There was just a memory of street cries lift 
ing their hungry, starved arms; just a memory of 
whispering river wind chasing the night clouds that 
clawed at the moon with cool, slim fingers of white 
and silver. 

A slow smile overspread Yung Han-Rai s placid, 
butter-yellow features. He stared at the rolling 
opium clouds. They seemed filled with a roaring sun 
set of colors, fox-brown and steel-blue and purple; 
like the colors of his past dreams moving and blazing 
before him, changing into his future dreams. 

That evening he had smoked thirty-seven pipes, 

199 



200 ALIEN SOULS 

each pipe an excellent and powerful mixture of Yu- 
nan and Benares poppy- juice. 

Earlier in the evening he had used a precious pipe 
of rose crystal with a yellow jade mouthpiece and 
three black silk tassels, which his older brother had 
given him years earlier, during the Eighth Moon fes 
tival in honor of Huo Shen, the god of fire. It was 
a charming pipe, the mouthpiece carved minutely with 
all the divinities of the Taoist heaven, from Lao Tzu 
himself to the Spiritual Exalted One; from the Pearly 
Emperor to the Ancient Original; from the Western 
Royal Mother to the god of the T ai Shan, the East 
ern Peak, who watches the rock-strewn coast of the 
Yellow Sea against the invasions of the outer 
barbarian. 

Yung Han-Rai liked this pipe. But he did not 
love it. 

He loved his old bamboo pipe, quite plain, with 
out tassels or ornaments. Once it had been white 
as ivory. But to-day it was blackish-brown, with a 
thousand and ten thousand smokes. It was fragrant 
with a thousand and ten thousand exquisite memories. 
Yung Han-Rai had used it during the latter part of 
the evening, and was using it now. 

He called it his pipe of August Permanence, while 
he called the other his pipe of Delightful Vice, com 
paring the first to a wife grown gnarled and wrinkled 
and berry-brown in her lord s service, and the second 
to a courtezan, whom one caresses, pays and forgets. 

He smoked three more pipes, one after the other, 
in rapid succession. 

The immaterial substance of his inner self had 
floated away on the gray wings of smoke. His soul 
reached to his former life, his longings, his loneliness, 



S BLACK POPPIES 201 

and his failure. It was failure no longer. He would 
find that old life fair and satisfying. He might even 
find the lesser gods. 

The opium sizzled with a reedy, fluting song. 
There was no other sound. Even the whispering wind 
had died; the street cries had guttered out like spent 
candles. 

He smoked. . . . 

Then came to him the vision. 

He saw very little now except the house itself, and, 
of the house, veiled through the opalescent saraband 
of the poppy fumes, he saw really only the three violet 
lanterns above the door. 

He had seen the house so often, remembered it so 
well. It was part of his dreams, thus part of his 
real life. He had always loved it, with an almost 
physical, sensuous love. It was like a fretted, chis 
eled ingot, with a pagoda roof that shimmered in 
every mysterious blending of blue and green and pur 
ple, like the plumage of a gigantic peacock, or the 
shootings of countless dragonflies. 

Too, he had always loved the three lamps below 
the carved, deep-brown pagoda beam. They were of 
a glorious, glowing violet, faintly dusted with gold; 
and, depending from them, fluttered long streamers 
of pottery-red satin, with inscriptions from the Chi 
nese classics in archaic Mandarin hieroglyphics. 

These inscriptions changed every night ; they seemed 
to blend with his own changing moods. That was 
their greatest charm. 

Last night he had been in a poetic mood, and the 
silken strips had lisped some of Han Yu s lilting lines, 
about "moonlight flooding the inner gallery, where 
the japonica stammers with silvered petals." To- 



202 ALIEN SOULS 

night the drift of his mind inclined toward the philo 
sophical, and he read on the fluttering streamers three 
quotations from the Kung-Yuan Chang. 

The first was: "Is virtue a thing remote?" The 
second: "I wish to be virtuous!" The third: "Lo 
and behold virtue is at hand !" 

He loved the entrance hall of the house, with the 
floor completely hidden under a shimmering mass of 
Kien-Lun brocades that were like moon-beams on run 
ning water, and, square in the center, an ancient Ming 
rug of imperial yellow stamped with black bats as a 
sign of good luck. These, with the three small tables 
of ebony and dull-red lacquer supporting an incense 
burner, an ivory vase for the hot wine, and a squat, 
earthen pot filled with a profusion of feathery parrot- 
tulips in exotic shades, and, in the far corner, a huge, 
fantastic tiger in old crackle-glaze porcelain all these, 
made for him a little world in themselves. 

He loved the stilted, never-changing ceremonial of 
Pekinese politeness with which the master of the house 
somehow, because of the whirling clouds of poppy 
smoke that veiled the room, he had never been able to 
see his features distinctly greeted him, night after 
night. He would receive his caller on the threshold, 
bowing with clasped hands, and saying : 

"Please deign to enter first." 

Whereat Yung Han-Rai would bow still lower. 

"How could I dare to, O wise and older brother?" 
he would retort, sucking in his breath, and quoting an 
appropriate line from the Book of Ceremonies and 
Exterior Demonstrations, which proved that the man 
ner is the heart s mirror. 

Then, night after night, after another request by 
his host, he himself still protesting his unworthiness, 



BLACK POPPIES 203 

he would enter as he was bidden and be asked to 
"deign to choose a mat," on the west side of the room, 
as a special mark of honor. And a so ft- footed serv 
ant in a crimson, dragon-embroidered tunic and a cap 
with a turquoise button would bring two jade cups; 
cups not of the garish green iao jade which foreign 
ers like, but of the white and transparent iu jade that 
the rites reserve for princes, viceroys, Manchus, min 
isters, and distinguished literati. 

He himself was a literatus. 

Had he not, many years ago, competing against 
ninety-seven picked youths from all the provinces of 
the Middle Kingdom, passed first in the examination 
at the Palace of August and Happy Education, and 
obtained the eminent degree of San Tsoi? Had not 
the Dowager Empress, in person, thereon congrat 
ulated him? Had not his mother been thanked pub 
licly for having given birth to such a talented son? 
And his prize poem was it not being quoted to this 
day by white-bearded priests, sipping their jasmine- 
flavored tea in the flaunting gardens of Pekin s Lama 
monastery? 

He remembered how the poem began : 

"Day reddens in the wake of night, 
But the days of our life return not. 
Sweet-scented orchids blot out the path, 
But they die in the drift of waters, 
And their flowers are blotted out, 
But their perfume . . ." 

Yes. He himself was a literatus. But he would 
again protest his unworthiness. 

"I shall drink if you wish me to, O wise and older 



204 ALIEN SOULS 

brother," he would say. "But from a wooden cup 
with no ornaments," he would add. 

And then, according to the proper rules of conduct 
prescribed by the ancients, the master of the house 
would insist three times, and he would drink the hot, 
spiced wine from the jade cup. 

It was so to-night. 

He entered, exchanged the customary Pekinese civil 
ities, sipped his cup of wine, and smiled at his host 
who smiled back. 

"Will you smoke?" asked the latter. 

"Gladly." 

"A pipe of jade, or a pipe of tortoise-shell with five 
yellow tassels?" 

"Either would be too flattering for me. Are you 
not my brother, very wise and very old? And am I 
not the unworthy and very little one? Let me, I be 
seech you, smoke my old bamboo." 

"Your lips will endow even an old bamboo with 
harmonious beauty far more precious than all the 
precious metals of the Mountains of the Moon," his 
host replied courteously, and bowed. 

He filled both pipes. The folds of smoke joined 
over the lamp whose flame was hidden by a filagree 
screen of butterflies in green enamel. 

"The opium will clear the clouds from our brains," 
continued the master of the house slowly. "It will 
purify our judgments, make our hearts more sensi 
tive to beauty, and take away the tyrannical sensa 
tions of actual life the sources, these, of all vulgar 
mistakes. Will you smoke again ?" 

"With pleasure." 

Both men drew in the acrid fumes with all the 
strength of their lungs. 



BLACK POPPIES 205 

Yung Han-Rai smiled dreamily. 

"Did not Hoang Ti, the Yellow Emperor himself, 
once remark that. . . . ?" 

The sentence died unfinished on his lips. 

They smoked in silence for nearly half an hour. 
The room was filling with scented fog. Already the 
objects scattered about had lost their outline, and the 
silken stuffs on the walls and the floor gleamed less 
brilliantly. 

Yung Han-Rai felt a confused sensation of the 
marrow of his bones and his muscles, some of which 
seemed to soften and almost to melt away, while 
others seemed to strengthen and grow greatly, while 
his subconscious brain seemed endowed with a new 
and intense vitality. He no longer noticed the weight 
of his body pressing on the mat ; rather he became con 
scious of a tremendous intellectual and ethical power. 

Hidden things became clear to him. The soul within 
his soul came to the surface with a flaming rush of 
speed. He felt himself part of nature a direct ex 
pression of cosmic life. The currents of the earth 
pulsed in his veins with a puissant and mysterious 
rhythm. 

High on the wall he saw a soft glow. It was an 
ancient gilt-wood statue representing Han Chung-le, 
the greatest of the Taoist immortals, who was sup 
posed to have found the elixir of life. 

Yung Han-Rai smiled at him familiarly, even 
slightly ironically. 

After all, the thought came to him, he and Han 
Chung-le were brothers, immortal both. 

He smoked again. 

The poppy tasted sweet as summer rain. . . . 

After a lapse of time, hours, days, weeks he knew 



206 ALIEN SOULS 

not, he became conscious that the master of the house 
was addressing him. The voice was soft, like the far 
piping of a reed. 

"I have considered everything," the voice said. "I 
have thought well. I have thought left and thought 
right. There exists no doubt that my daughter, the 
Plum Blossom, will greatly appreciate your many and 
honorable qualities. She, on the other hand, will make 
you a delightful wife. Her eyes are like sunbeams 
filtering their gold through the shadows of the pine 
woods. The mating-songs of all the birds are echoed 
in the harmony of her voice. Too, she is a vessel filled 
with all the domestic virtues. She is strong and high- 
breasted. She will bear you as many men-children as 
there are hairs in my queue." 

"Your too-indulgent lips have pronounced words full 
of the most delicate beauty," replied Yung Han-Rai. 
"Alas, it grieves me, but I cannot accept. I am the 
very little and unimportant one. My ancestry is 
wretched, my manners deplorable, and my learning 
less than the shadow of nothing at all. The honor 
would be too great, O wise and older brother." 

"It is my own justly despised family which will be 
exquisitely honored," replied the other, rising, and 
bowing deeply with clasped hands. "Let there I 
humbly implore you be a marriage between you and 
the Plum Blossom. You will make an excellent son- 
in-law, virtuous, learned, a respecter of the ancient 
traditions of Ming and Sung." 

Yung Han-Rai was about to speak, to protest once 
more, as the proper ceremonial demanded, his utter 
unworthiness. His lips had already formed the care 
fully chosen words when, very suddenly, he was 
silent. He became nervous, uneasy, frightened. Cold 



BLACK POPPIES 207 

beads of perspiration trickled slowly down his nose. 

He bent forward; listened. 

That noise. What was it? 

Something from the outside world, the unreal world 
of facts, seemed to brush in on unclean, sardonic 
wings, to disturb the perfect peace of the house, to 
break and shiver the poppy-heavy air. 

Cries of the street, in an uncouth, foreign language : 

"Yer gotta travel the straight an narrow if yer 
want me t stick t yer, get me ?" 

"Gee, kid! Listen t me! I ain t never spoke a 
woid to th guy, I tells yer honest !" 

"Well looka here. . . ." 

The voices drifted away. Came other noises. The 
hooting of the Elevated, around the corner on Chatham 
Square. The steely roar of a motor exhaust. 

Motor? Elevated? Chatham Square? 

What was it, Yung asked himself? What did the 
words signify? 

Streets noises foreigners coarse-haired barbar 
ians. . . . 

No, no by the Excellent Lord Buddha ! 

They were only the figments of his dreams; dt earns 
which he had often, day after day; dreams which he 
hated and feared 

Dreams which he must kill ! 

With shaking fingers he reached for the opium jar. 
He kneaded the brown cube. He roasted it, filled his 
pipe, and smoked. 

And, at once, the poppy ghosts drew swiftly down 
about him on silver-gray wings, building around him 
a wall of fragant, gossamer clouds, suffusing the soul 
within his soul with the wild loveliness of a forgotten 
existence. 



208 ALIEN SOULS 

With a wealth of deep, radiant conviction, this 
former existence, blending with his life of might-have- 
been, poured into his brain. His brain inflamed his 
heart. His thoughts softened; they trembled like a 
wavering line of music in a night-blue wind of spring. 
The fringe of his inner consciousness stretched far 
and out, away to the stars and the high winds, into 
a great and sweet freedom. 

He smoked again. 

He became conscious of something like a rain of 
summer flowers. The feet of his soul were walking 
down the path of some tremendous, dazzling verity. 
The facts of the outer world touched him no longer 
with their hard, cutting edges. These facts were un 
true ; they were not ; they were only the lying thoughts 
of the lying, lesser gods. 

The poppy fumes whirled up, wreathing everything 
in floating vapors. They darkened the air with a 
solid, bloating shadow. The room disappeared. Dis 
appeared his host. 

He saw again the outside of the house, the tilted, 
pagoda roof shimmering like a gigantic peacock; saw 
again the three violet lanterns above the door. 

He was now walking away from the house, but he 
turned and saw that the inscriptions on the three flut 
tering streamers had changed once more. 

The first read: "Love like moon-born clouds 
casting their tremulous shadows over stairs of rose- 
red jade !" The second : "Love like little ghosts of 
May-time ruffling the river of heart s desire!" The 
third: "Love like a hidden lute softly lilting be 
hind a silken alcove !" 

So he strolled away, beneath a vaulted night, subtly 
perfumed, secret, mystical, netted in delicate silver 



BLACK POPPIES 209 

mist, and the soft starlight drifting down through 
budding boughs into budding earth, and the dreams 
in his soul moving thick and soft ahead of him; and 
he felt, deep within him, as the Lord Gautama Buddha 
must have felt on the day of creation, when his golden 
smile first dawned on chaos and the love in his heart 
released the forces of nature. 

And the opium clouds drove the night to the west, 
and the broad, level wedge of day streamed out of 
the east; and the strength of the young sun came, 
stemming the morning mists. 

The air was a rapidly whirling wheel of gleaming 
dust, shedding crimson and purple sparks; a brook 
went gurgling past, sparkling like a flow of emeralds, 
there was a staccato breeze flickering over the sun- 
spotted fields like the wind of a Manchu lady s gaily- 
flirted fan; and the voice of his heart s desire whis 
pered through the green roll of creation, and he saw, 
etched against the distance, the Pavilion of Exquisite 
Love that rose slowly from a garden of great black 
poppies, curved fantastically into an upper story 
framed by balconies, then raced away with spires and 
turrets and tinkling silver bells to a bright, pigeon- 
blue sky. 

So he smoked again. 

The fragrant fumes of his pipe, with the light of 
the lamp playing upon them, laid a shining ribbon of 
gold from his heart to the pavilion. 

His feet stepped softly upon it. He reached the 
pavilion, and entered. 

The Plum Blossom was sitting erect on a chair of 
ebony and lacquer encrusted with rose-quartz, and the 
sweep of his heart s desire came down upon Yung 
Han-Rai like a gentle, silvered miracle. 



210 ALIEN SOULS 

"Hayah ! my bridegroom !" she said, rising, and bow 
ing low. 

"Hayah ! my bride !" he replied, and kowtowed three 
times. 

He trembled a little. In his blood he felt pulsing 
the whole earth with her myriad expressions of life 
and the making of life, as if dancing to the primal 
rhythm of all creation. 

He looked at her. 

He saw her very clearly. The poppy smoke had 
faded into memory. 

Her face was like a tiny, ivory flower, beneath the 
great wedding-crown of paper-thin gold leaves, with 
emeralds like drops of frozen green fire, with carved 
balls of moonstone swinging from the lobes of her 
ears. The finger nails of her right hand were very 
long, and encased by pointed filagrees of lapis lazuli 
studded with seed pearls. 

She wore a long gown, that was like a current of 
glossy silver, embroidered with trailing powder-blue 
clouds and peach blossoms and, along the bottom of 
the skirt, a golden dragon in whose head shimmered 
the seven mystic jewels. The jacket, with its loose 
sleeves of plum-color encircled by bands of coral lotus 
buds, was tight and short, of apple-green satin em 
broidered with sprays of yulan magnolias and guelder 
roses, loped with fretted buttons of white jade; while 
her slippers were of porcelain, of the one called Ting- 
yao, which is fifth in rank among all perfect porcelains, 
thin as a paper of rice, fragile as the wings of the 
silk-moth, melodious as the stone khing when gently 
struck by a soft hand, violet as a summer s night 
and with an over-glaze like the amber bloom of 
grapes. 



BLACK POPPIES 211 

Again he kowtowed. 

She was very close to him. Nothing separated them 
except the delicate threshold between dream and fact. 
Beyond that threshold there was peace, there was love, 
there was the eternal thrill of fulfillment, there was an 
end of those yearnings, of the loneliness and the pains 
of actual life that had bruised his soul these many 
years. 

So he smoked again. He enveloped himself in a 
thick, strongly-scented poppy cloud, and he stepped a 
little beyond the threshold, and knelt at her feet. 

"I love you, Plum Blossom," he said. "I love you, 
O very small Blossom of the Plum Tree!" and he 
reached for the kin, the Chinese lute, which was at 
her elbow on a pillow of yellow satin embrodiered with 
an iridescent rain of pearls. 

His fingers caressed the instrument. They brushed 
over the cords. 

The ancient Tartar melody winged up in minor, 
wailing harmonies, like the fluting of long-limbed rice 
birds flying against the dead-gold of the autumn sky; 
and he sang: 

"I love you. You are in my heart. You are in 
my soul. You are in the soul within my soul, where 
the world has not been spotted by dirt and lies, but 
is pure as the laughter of little children; where there 
are no fetters of the flesh nor galls of earthly restraint ; 
where the winds roam in the pathless skies of outer 
creation, with none but the Buddha s will to check 
their vagabond waywardness. . . ." 

Gently his fingers trembled across the strings of 
the lute. The accompaniment rippled in white tone- 
waves, silver-flecked; it quivered on a high note, 
spreading a network of infinitely delicate tone fila- 



212 ALIEN SOULS 

ments, then brushed out with an abandon of throbbing 
cadences, like tiny, drifting ghosts of spring tinkling 
their girdle gems of fretted jade. 

"I love you," he sang. "Daily my love for you 
echoes through the vaulted halls of my dreams, my 
life; echoes in smiles and tears and hopes of fulfill 
ment. Daily the thought of you comes to me with 
flute songs and flowers. Daily I launch the boat of 
my desire on the lilied pond of your soul. Daily I seek 
you in the whirling smoke of the poppies. . . ." 

He paused. 

Skillfully, between thumb and second finger, he 
twanged the third string. The note trembled as on 
the brink of an abyss. It sobbed like a flame in the 
meeting of winds. Then it blew clear into a high 
rush of ecstasy, and he sang again: 

"Daily I have sought you in the whirling smoke of 
the poppies. Hayah, my bride! And to-day I have 
found you found you." 

Again he paused. 

An overpowering desire tore across him burningly. 
In a back cell of his brain, he caught the whispered 
fragment of some enormous truth ; saw, with the eyes 
of his body, the opium fumes pointing with dreamy, 
blue fingers; saw, with the eyes of his soul, the Plum 
Blossom s starry little face. 

"To-day I have found you," he sang; and again 
he twanged the third cord between thumb and second 
finger. 

It trembled. The clear note rose, then broke a 
little. And he bent over the lute and pulled the cord 
taut. 

It sobbed protestingly. There was a tiny snap. 
Then, suddenly, the cord broke, with a jarring ring. 



BLACK POPPIES 213 

"Today I have found you," he sang; and his voice 
broke; vanished in the whirling fog of the poppies. 

He felt a curious, sweet pain. An immense shutter 
seemed to drop across his mind with a speed of light 
ning. There was a momentary break in his conscious 
ness, a sense of vague, yet abrupt dislocation, of in 
finite, rather helpless regret, and the door opened 

"Looka here, yer darned Chink hop-head!" came a 
rough voice. 

Bill Devoy, detective of Second Branch and on the 
Pell Street beat of sewer gas and opium and yellow 
man and white, stepped inside. He sniffed, turned 
up the gas jet, then crossed to the window and opened 
it wide. 

"Gosh! Wot a smell!" 

He looked about the room, dusty, grimy, bare of 
all furnishings except the narrow, wooden bunk where 
Yung Han-Rai lay stretched out, the bamboo pipe in 
his stiff fingers, and the small taboret with the smoker s 
paraphernalia which stood beside the bunk. 

He touched the Chinese on the shoulder with his 
heavy hand. 

"Looka here, Yung," he said. "I don t wanta pinch 
yer. Ye re a decent lad. I m only gonna talk t yer 
like a Dutch uncle, see ? Yer gotta cut out the poppy, 
get me? Wottahell! Look at yerself ! Look at this 
room ! Doity and grimy, and not a stick o furniture ! 
Ain t yer ashamed o yerself ? Wottya mean soakin 
yerself in th black smoke every night, wastin every 
cent yer earn on hop? Ain t yer got no sense at all, 
yer poor Chink? And they tells me yer useter be a 
gent, back home in Chinkieland a real gent, eddy- 
cated and of a swell family ! Wottya mean, yer poor, 
weak-spined fish?" 



2i 4 ALIEN SOULS 

Again he touched the other on the shoulder. He 
bent down a little more closely. Then a hush came 
into his voice, as he saw the wistful smile on the 
yellow, wrinkled old face of the dead man. 

"Gee!" he whispered. "Oh, Gee!" 



THE PERFECT WAY 

HERE, where Pell Street jutted out from the Bowery, 
there was not even a trace of the patina of antiquity, 
that bitter and morose grace which clings about old 
houses like the ghosts of dead flowers. There was 
nothing here except the marks of the present hard, 
gray, scabbed, already rotting before having lived 
overmuch. 

The noises of the street seethed in frothy, brutal 
streaks : the snarling whine of Russian Jews barter 
ing over infinitesimal values; the high, clipped tenor 
of metallic, Italian vernaculars; the gliding sing-song 
of Chinese coolies; and only occasionally an English 
word, sharp and lonely and nostalgic. There was the 
rumbling overtone of the Elevated around the corner 
on Chatham Square; the sardonic hooting of a four- 
ton motor dray; the ineffectual tinkle-tinkle of a ped 
dler s bell. Rain came and joined in the symphony; 
spluttering in the leaky eaves-troughs, dripping through 
the huddled, greasy alleys, mumbling angrily in the 
brown, clogged gutters. 

And Yu Ching sat there by the window and stared 
with cold, black eyes into the cold, wet evening, neither 
seeing nor hearing. Behind him shadows coiled, 
blotchy, inchoate, purplish-black, with just a fitful 
dancing of elfin high-lights on a teakwood screen, 
its tight, lemon silk embroidered with japonica, flut 
tering their silvered petals, and on a small crystal 

215 



216 ALIEN SOULS 

statue of Confucius that squatted amid the smoking 
incense sticks. 

The corner lamp flared up, mean and yellow. The 
light stabbed in and mirrored on the finger-nails of his 
pudgy right hand. The hand was very still. Still was 
the man s face large, hairless, butter-colored. 

The rain spluttered and stammered. The street 
cries belched defiantly. The peace in Yu Ching s heart 
was perfect, exquisite. 

Momentarily, there came to him fleeting memories 
of the days when his own life, too, had been an in 
tegral and not unimportant part of that cosmic Pell 
Street energy, when he had been a shrewd and re 
spected merchant, who had contributed his share of 
wisdom and gossip to the evening gatherings of his 
countrymen in the liquor store of the Chin Sor Com 
pany the "Place of Sweet Desire and Heavenly En 
tertainment." 

Came memories of his wife, Marie Na Liu, sweet 
with lissom, unformed sweetness of sixteen years, 
tiny and soft and high-breasted, with the golden hair 
of a Danish mother and the creamy, waxen skin, the 
sloe-black eyes of a Chinese father. 

Across the poetry of her youth had lain the stony 
drag and smother, the subtle violence, the perfumed 
dirt of the bastard Pell Street world. She had been 
like a rainbow bubble floating on the stinking puddles 
of Chinatown vice. But he had loved her dearly. 
His love for her had burned away the caked, black 
cinders, the dross and the dirt. 

Her love for him ? There were classic, scholarly 
traditions in his clan ; one of his ancestors had been a 
poet of no mean repute in the days of the Ta Tsing 



THE PERFECT WAY 217 

Kwoh, the "Great-Pure Kingdom" ; and so Yu Ching 
had compared Marie Na Liu s love to a dewdrop on a 
willow spray, a flaunting of fairy pennons, and the 
sound of a silver bell in the green mists of twilight 
smiling, with kindly intent, at the last simile; for he 
had been forty-seven years of age and she sixteen 
when he had married her, quite respectably, with a 
narrow gold ring, a bouquet of cabbagy, wired roses, 
a proper, monumental wedding cake, a slightly shocked 
Baptist clergyman mumbling the words of the blessed 
ritual, and at the organ a yellow, half-caste boy in 
troducing wailing Cantonese dissonances into the 
"Voice that breathed o er Eden." 

Down at the "Place of Sweet Desire and Heavenly 
Entertainment," the comment had been brutally un 
flattering. 

"You are old, and she is young!" had said Nag 
Hong Fah, the paunchy restaurant proprietor, flutter 
ing his paper fan. "Hay ah! On the egg combating 
with the stone, the yolk came out, O wise and older 
brother!" 

"The ass went seeking for horns and lost its ears !" 
Yung Lung, the wholesale grocer, had darkly sug 
gested. 

And Yu Ch ang, the priest of the joss temple, had 
added with pontifical unction : 

"When I see the sun and the moon delivered up 
by the eclipse to the hands of the demons; when I 
perceive the bonds that fasten an elephant; and when 
I behold a wise man surrendering ah to the fool 
ish abominations of the flesh, the thought forces 
itself upon me: How mighty is the power of 
evil! " 

Thus, at the time of their marriage, had run the 



218 ALIEN SOULS 

gliding, malicious gossip of Chinatown. But when, 
quite casually, Yu Ching had repeated it to his wife, 
who was busying herself amongst the cook pots of 
their neat little Pell Street flat, she had given him a 
rapid kiss. 

"You sh d worry, yer fat old sweetness!" she had 
laughed. "Them Chinks is just plain jealous. You 
treat me on th level and I ll retoin the compliment, 
see? Besides, I m stuck on yer snoozly old phiz! I 
ain t goin t waste no time huntin for thrills, as long 
as ye re true to me ! I m a good Christian I am " 
"And I am a good Buddhist, Plum Blossom !" 
"Hell s bells wot s the difference, sweetness?" 

They had been happy. And to-day he had forgotten 
her. He had completely forgotten her; and he knew 
subconsciously, for he never reflected on the subject 
that she had been faithful to him ; that never, either 
by word or deed, had she caused him to lose faith; 
that she had lived up, straight and clean, to the words 
of the ritual : love, honor, obey. 

He knew subconsciously that he had broken her 
heart when he walked out of her life, three years ago. 

Very impersonally, he wondered what had become 
of her. Then he cut off the wondering thought. He 
smiled. He said to himself that she, too, had been 
an illusion, a mirroring of shadows in the dun dusk 
of his soul. 

She did not matter. 

Why he put his fingers together, delicately, tip 
against tip nothing mattered. . . . 

Outside, more lights sprang up against the violet 
of the sky, spotting the gloom. The noises grew as, 



THE PERFECT WAY 219 

with night, grew and heaved the dark-smoldering 
passions of the city. A pint pocket flask dropped, 
smashed against a stone. A foul curse was answered 
by throaty, malign laughter. Came the tail-end of a 
gutter song; a shouted, obscene joke, old already when 
the world was young; more curses and laughter; a 
sailor s sodden, maudlin mouthings; a woman s gur 
gling contralto: 

"Aw chase yerself ! Wottya mean, yer big stiff ?" 

The drama of the city. The comedy. The vital, 
writhing entrails. Life, clouting, breathing, fighting 
eternally. 

But Yu Ching did not see, nor hear. His heart 
was as pure as the laughter of little children, as pure 
as a gong of white jade. There was hardly a trace of 
the outer world, dimly, on the rim of his conscious 
ness. 

His soul had reached the end of its pilgrimage. 
Calm, serene, passionless like the Buddha, it sat en 
throned beyond the good and the evil. 

"All forms are only temporary!" there was the 
one great truth. 

He smiled. Mechanically, his thin lips formed the 
words of the Buddha s Twenty-Third Admonition : 

"Of all attachments unto objects of desire, the 
strongest is the attachment to form. He who cannot 
overcome this desire, for him to enter the Perfect 
Way of Salvation is impossible. . . ." 

The rain had ceased. A great slow wind walked 
braggingly through the skies. The Elevated, a block 
away, rushed like the surge of the sea. The Bowery 
leered up with a mawkish, tawdry face. 

The noises of the street blended and clashed, blended 
and clashed. A thousand people came and went, people 



220 ALIEN SOULS 

of all races, all faiths gulping down life in greedy 
mouthfuls. 

And still the peace in Yu Ching s heart was perfect 
and exquisite. Still he smiled. Still, mechanically, 
his lips mumbled the words of the Buddha : 

"By day shineth the sun. By night shineth the 
moon. Shineth also the warrior in harness of war. 
But the Buddha, at all times by day and by night, 
shineth ever the same, illuminating the world, calm, 
passionless, serene " 

The end of his soul s pilgrimage. . . . 

And presently to-day, to-morrow, next year, ten 
years from now his body would die, and his spirit 
would leap the dragon gate, would blend its secret es 
sence with the eternal essence of the Buddha s soul. 
. . . And what else mattered? 

He bent his head. 

"Fire and night and day art Thou," he whispered, 
"and the fortnight of waxing moon and the months 
of the sun s northern circuit " 

The end of his pilgrimage ! 

And the beginning had been hard. For he had 
loved Marie Na Liu. He had not wanted to harm her. 

But the Voice had spoken to him in the night, ask 
ing him to arise and throw off the shackles of desire, 
the fetters of the flesh ; to forget the illusions ; telling 
him that, whatever meritorious results might be at 
tained by prayers and sacrifices, by austerities and 
gifts, there was no sacrifice to be compared with that 
of a man s own heart. Such a sacrifice was the excel 
lent sanctifier exhaustless in result. 

"Sure," had said Bill Devoy, a detective of Second 
Branch and detailed to the Pell Street beat of opium 
and sewer gas and yellow man and white; he had 



THE PERFECT WAY 221 

caught on to the gossip in the course of a murder in 
vestigation that had nothing whatsoever to do with the 
pilgrimage of Yu Ching s soul "that Chink s got re 
ligion wot he calls religion. I don t know if a yaller 
Billy Sunday s come down to Pell and Mott, but I 
do know as that there Yu Ching s hittin the trail to 
salvation as them Chinks hit it sittin all day like 
a bump on a log, just smilin , and never sayin a damn 
word. Meditatin they calls it. Gee! He gives me 
the creeps, he does " 

At first, Marie Na Liu had laughed. 

"Say wottya mean, sweetness?" she had asked. 
"Leave me? Coin t leave me?" Then her voice had 
risen a hectic octave. "Is there another skoit? For if 
there is say " 

"No, Plum Blossom. There is no other woman 
never will be. Woman is an illusion " 

"Wottya handin me?" 

"The flesh is an illusion. There is just my soul 
the Buddha has spoken to me in the night " 

"You ve been eatin Welsh rabbit again down to 
the Dutchman s ! You know it never agrees with yer !" 

"No, no!" 

He had smiled, gently and patiently. Gently and 
patiently, he had tried to explain to her, had tried to 
make her understand. 

"But sweetness listen t me! Yer can t leave me 
oh, yer can t. . . ." 

She had argued, cajoled, threatened. But nothing 
she could say had made any impression on him. It had 
seemed to her, suddenly, as if she had never really 
known this man ; this man with whom she had lived in 
the close physical and mental intimacy of married life 
in a little, box-like flat. She had felt looking at him, 



222 ALIEN SOULS 

serene, passionless, calnu as if an alien life, an alien 
existence, was enfolding him; enfolding him away 
from her, in an incomprehensible and tmhuman quie 
tude. 

He had seemed to her far away so far away and 
her narrow, white hands had stretched out. helplessly, 
appealingly; had touched the crinkly, dark-blue silk of 
his blouse. 

"Aw come on, sweetness" 

Again he had tried to explain; and, finally, while 
she had not seen the tremendous and elemental force, 
ancient and racial, that was driving him on to his 
decision, she had understood the result. 

He was going to leave her! Yu Ching, her man, 
was going to leave her ! 

"Aw Gee!" 

She had cursed. Then her gutter flow of words 
had floundered in the eddy of her hurt love and pride 
and vanity, her sheer amazement. 

"Ye re goin to ? Ye re really, rtally goin to ?" 

"I must. The Buddha has spoken to me. I must 
break the shackles of the flesh, the ropes of illusion 
ahee! the ropes of sand! It is a most meritorious 
act." 

"Meritorious, is it ?" Swiftly her passion had turned 
into an icy sneer. "Meritorious, is it to break a 
goil s heart? To trample on her and spit on her 
to?" 

He had sighed, a little wearily. 

"I shall leave you suitably provided for. I shall 
only take along a couple of thousand dollars. All the 
rest is yours the money the business everything." 

"Money? Business? Who cares?" She had come 
close to him, smiling up at him, piteously, with her 



THE PERFECT WAY 223 

broad, crimson, generous mouth, the black, somber 
orbit of her eyes dimmed with tears. "I don t want 
money! I want you, sweetness! You, you, you! 
Aw Gee don t yer see?" 

But he had not moved; had patiently continued 
smiling. And then she had understood that she might 
as well plead with some immense and stony sending 
of fate, and her passion had leaped out in a splatter 
ing stream of abuse: 

"Yer damned Chink! Ye ll pay fer this say 
ye ll pay fer this some day! Aw yer damned, yaller 
hop-head of a Chink!" 

She had laughed hysterically, her soft little oval of 
a face twisted into a terrible grimace. 

"I hate yer! I despise yer! Clear outa here! I 
don t wanta ever see yer ugly mug again ! Clear out ! 
I hate yer yer damned, fat Chink!" 

And so he had left her. 

So he had left Pell Street, its warm, tame conven 
iences, its pleasant, snug reek, its zest and tang of 
shrewd barter and shrewd gossip, his friends, his Tong, 
his life as he had known it and savored it these many 
years. 

So he had gone on pilgrimage, seeking for release 
from illusion, from attachment to objects of desire, 
seeking the Buddha s Perfect Way, wandering here and 
there, even returning to China where he made the 
sengaji circuit of the thousand and three blessed 
shrines. 

In lonely wayside temples he had sat, talking to 
gentle priests about the faith and the hope that were 
his, thinking ever of release from fleshly bondage, turn 
ing his eyes toward the mazed depths of his soul, and 
meditating on the mysterious way which is Life. And 



224 ALIEN SOULS 

when at times the air had been heavy with the musk 
of remembrance and regret, of passion and longing, 
when his subconscious fancy had peopled his brain cells 
with pictures of his former existence Pell Street, his 
friends sipping their tea and smoking their crimson- 
tasseled pipes in the "Place of Sweet Desire and Heav 
enly Entertainment," Marie Na Liu, her white smile 
flashing through the purple night he had done pen 
ance, submitting to the supreme physical ordeals, grad 
ually subduing his body and his mind. 

Thus, finally, he had found peace, perfect, exquisite ; 
and then somehow, he never knew why or how "that, 
too, was Fate," he used to say afterwards, "I but fol 
lowed the way of my Fate. Who can avoid what is 
written on the forehead in the hour of birth?" he 
had returned to New York, and so he sat there by 
the window and looked out upon the shrill Babel of 
the Pell Street night calm, serene, passionless. 

Just below the window, an elderly Chinese was ar 
guing with a countryman, quoting the polished and 
curiously insincere phrases of Mandarin sages, in a 
stammering falsetto: 

"Pa nien jou chi i tien jou ki " 

A policeman whistled shrilly. A barrel-organ 
creaked a nostalgic, Sicilian melody. . . . 

Yu Ching neither saw nor heard. 

These people what did they matter? They were 
only cosmic atoms whirling aimlessly in the wind of 
desire, like formless swarming snatches of dreams. 
No ! Nothing mattered, nothing was real, except the 
soul. 

He smiled, and whispered praises to the Buddha, 
and then, suddenly, yet imperceptibly, like the shadow 
of a leaf through summer dusk, he felt that he was not 



THE PERFECT WAY 225 

alone in the room, that eyes were staring at him. 

He turned, just a little startled. 

The door was open. 

From the fluttering gas jet in the outer hall, a wedge 
of light streamed in. Sharply outlined in its bluish- 
green rays, Marie Na Liu stood there, her face pale 
and drawn. She stood silent and motionless, but as 
though charged with some kind of elemental force 
that was inexhaustible. 

Yu Ching twisted in his chair. For a moment, some 
thing reached out and touched his soul, leaving the 
chill of an indescribable uneasiness. For a moment, 
he thought of his former life; thought of it in terms 
of a new life, a future life ; it opened before him, hold 
ing immense and measureless perspectives. 

Then, with slow deliberation, he turned his back 
upon his wife. 

"O Buddha!" he mumbled. "All forms are only 
temporary illusions of the flesh ! Thou knowest ! I 
know!" 

Outside, the wind shrieked. The Elevated cars 
blundered along their steely spider s web, like weary 
creatures seeking shelter. 

"Say! Yu Ching! Listen t me!" 

He did not turn. 

"Buddha!" he prayed. "Permit me to withdraw 
my senses wholly into meditation!" 

"Looka here !" came Marie Na Liu s voice, strident 
and challenging. 

She closed the door and stepped into the room. He 
could hear the rustle of her garments, could smell a 
faint perfume. 

He bent his head on his chest; tried to conquer his 
senses. 



22(5 ALIEN SOULS 

"I wanta talk t yer!" 

He did not move ; did not speak. 

Peace, perfect, exquisite there was the secret of 
life, the way of salvation. He had reached it once, 
had felt it once; like the stillness of dawn in a lonely 
place, like the quiet hush of unseen stars. He had 
reached it and felt it. He did not want to lose it 
again. The pilgrimage had been hard, hard. 

Deliberately, he gathered his soul into an inner 
fold of his consciousness. 

And then, as from very far off, across illimitable 
distances, he heard again his wife s voice low, ap 
pealing; presently leaping out extraordinarily strong, 
with a sweep of utter abandon. 

"Bill Devoy member the plain-clothes cop? ? 
slips me woid that ye ve retoined. And well. . . . 

"Say! When y left me, three years ago, I sed to 
myself I d never forgive yer never wanted t see yer 
mug again. Told yer I hated yer, didn t I? Gee 
I was sure some sore ! But," she gave a little throaty, 
embarrassed laugh, "well here I am see ?" 

Silence. He could hear her breath coming in sibi 
lant, staccato sobs. Again her voice : 

"Y make it hard fer a feller, don t yer? Say! 
Sweetness! I got my pride I m a woman, ain t I?" 

Her voice broke a little. 

"Sweetness! Aw Gawd! Why don t yer speak 
t me?" 

The words wavered, sank, rose again. 

"Why don t yer say somethin ? Anything oh 
anything! Just toin and look at me, won t ye? Coise 
me ! Swear at me ! Tell me to clear outa here ! But 
please speak! Aw sweetness won t yer talk 
t me please?" 



THE PERFECT WAY 227 

Yu Ching felt words rising in his throat. He choked 
them back. All this Pell Street, the noises of the 
night, his wife was an illusion in a sea of illusions. 
It was not real. It was taking place in an alien world 
of dreams. There was only his own soul, safe in some 
inner and secret sanctuary of eternity, where the riot 
and tumult of external life dared not intrude. 

He smiled, very gently. 

Somewhere, quite close to him, there was the sweet 
passion and pain of long, exquisite suffering, some in 
tense yearning. But, surely, it was not in his own 
body, his own heart. It was just the remote experience 
of a life which he had once known which he would 
never know again. 

"All forms are only temporary only temporary " 
he mumbled. 

"So yer won t talk t me eh?" 

The question came with a harsh, vindictive grating, 
and something beyond fear stole with a freezing touch 
upon Yu Ching s placid soul. He conquered the feel 
ing, sent it reeling back to the undergrowth of his 
stilled, half-remembering consciousness. 

Came silence. 

It seemed eternities until once more Marie Na Liu s 
harsh words dropped into the great, open void. 

"Well don t talk, if yer don t feel like it ! But 
ye ll listen t me, awright, awright, yer damned Chink ! 
Sure Mike! Ye ll listen" 

The voice plunged on, piercing, high-pitched. 

" Member young Nag Gin Lee? Ol Nag Hong 
Fah s nephew from Frisco, who came here t* learn 
the business? Young feller member? more my 
own age. Swell lookin guy, and some classy dresser, 
member him ? Say, yer damned fat old Chink ! D yer 



228 ALIEN SOULS 

remember him ? Yer don t ? Well I do ! Yes, sir, 
I do! And d yer know why? D yer wanta know?" 

She spoke through her teeth. Her words clicked 
and broke like dropping icicles. 

She rushed up to her husband. She gripped his 
shoulders with frantic hands. She forced him to turn 
and look up until she could stare straight into his black, 
oblique eyes, her own eyes blazing fire and hate. 

"Not that ye ll care! Not that ye ll give a damn! 
But yer might as well know. Me and young Nag 
me and him. . . ." 

She burst into gurgling, hysterical laughter that 
shook her whole body. 

"Me and him me and him. . . ." 

He rose; trembled. 

Marie Na Liu s last words had staggered him like 
a blow between the eyes. 

He tried to control himself. 

Peace, perfect, exquisite! The peace of the soul, 
calm, passionless, serene, in a world of illusions 
ropes of illusions ropes of sand. . . . 

His thoughts groped, slipped. 

Peace the Buddha s peace the end of his soul s 
pilgrimage. But and an extraordinary revulsion 
caught him, flashed upon him like a sheet of black 
fire what did it matter his soul s pilgrimage? What 
did anything rrtatter, except 

Marie Na Liu! 

Golden-haired sloe-eyed. . . . Her little feet had 
crushed his heart. . . . 

He felt a terrible weakness in his knees, and a catch 
in his throat. For a tenth part of a second his memory 
turned back. He thought of a day, a spring day. He 



THE PERFECT WAY 229 

had come home rather earlier than usual, had found 
young Nag sitting across from his wife, close to her. 
He had heard them laugh as he came up the stairs 
had heard mumbled words. 

He stood there, a deep sob shaking his massive 
frame, and Marie Na Liu was still laughing, loudly, 
hysterically. 

"Sure! Me and him me and him. . . ." 

She rushed to the door, opened it, stood no the 
threshold. 

"Me and him yer poor fish ! And yer never knew 
yer never guessed !" 

Her words came like the lash of a whip. Yu Ching 
sank back in his chair. He heard the door close. 

His wife and young Nag! His wife and young 
Nag! 

The words repeated themselves in his thoughts. 
They expanded and multiplied. They were in his 
veins, in his bones, in the roots of his hair. They 
seemed to fill every nook and cranny of his brain. 

He looked out of the window. The night had thick 
ened. Mist wreaths pointed with long, bloodless 
fingers. Above them a heavy cloud-bank lumbered 
clumsily in, the lilt of the wind. 

Somebody laughed below the window. Somebody 
cursed. 

Life was down there ; passion and desire, love and 
hate and ambition life, real life. His own soul, he 
thought, had dared sublime achievement ; it had failed, 
had plunged him into an abyss. 

He slumped in his chair; he cried, with cracked, 
high-pitched sobs, as strong men cry. 

He did not hear the rattling of the door knob. He 



2 3 o ALIEN SOULS 

did not see the melting and dimming of the bluish- 
green gas jet in the outer hall, as the door opened and 
closed again. 

But, suddenly, a faint scent of flowers was in his 
nostrils. Suddenly he felt, close to him, at his knees, 
a yielding form; heard soft, broken words: 

"Aw sweetness! Don t yer believe wot I sed! I 
lied! Honest t Gawd, I lied! Yer know I lied 
don t yer don t yer, sweetness?" 

And his arms folded about her, and she nestled like 
a tired bird. 

Then he smiled, very gently, very patiently. 

"Peace," he whispered. "Ah peace perfect, ex 
quisite. . . ." 



TAO 

IT was now the custom of Li Ping-Yeng, the wealthy 
retired banker, to sit near the open window and look 
up at the sky, which seemed always to be packed with 
dirty clouds, or down into Pell Street, toward the 
corner, where it streams into the Bowery in frothy, 
brutal, yellow-and-white streaks. Occasionally, hud 
dled snug and warm in a fold of his loose sleeve, a 
diminutive, flat-faced Pekinese spaniel, with convex, 
nostalgic eyes and a sniffy button of a nose, would 
give a weak and rather ineffectual bark. Then, star 
tled, yet smiling, Li Ping-Yeng would rise and go 
down-stairs to the Great Shanghai Chop Suey Palace 
in search of food. 

To do this, he had to cross his apartment. 

Fretted with shifting lights, it lay in dim, scented 
splendor. Underfoot stretched a thick-napped dragon 
rug of tawny orange and taupe, picked out with rose- 
red and brown. Age-darkened tulip- wood furniture 
faded into the corners, where the shadows drooped and 
coiled. The door of the outer hall was hidden by a 
great, ebony-framed screen of pale lotus silk em 
broidered with conventionalized figures, black and pur 
ple and maroon, that represented the "Hei-song-che- 
choo," the "Genii of the Ink," household gods of the 
literati ; while here and there, on table and taboret and 
etagere, were priceless pieces of Chinese porcelain, blue- 
and- white Ming and Kang-he beakers in aubergine and 

231 



232 ALIEN SOULS 

oxen-blood, crackled clair-de-lune of the dynasty of 
Sung, peachblow celadon, Corean Fo dogs and Fong- 
hoang emblems in ash-gray and apple-green. 

This was the room, these were the treasures, which 
years ago he had prepared with loving, meticulous care 
for the coming of his bride. 

She had come, stepping mincingly in tiny bound 
feet, "skimming," had said an impromptu Pell Street 
poet who had cut his rice gin with too much heady 
whompee juice, "over the tops of golden lilies, like 
Yao Niang, the iron-capped Manchu prince s famous 
concubine." 

But almost immediately the tragedy had not 
loomed very large in the morning news, starting with 
a crude head-line of "Woman Killed in Street by Car 
on Wrong Side," and winding up with "The Chauffeur, 
Edward H. Connor, of No. 1267 East I57th Street, 
was held at the West 68th Street Station on a charge 
of homicide" her body had passed into the eternal 
twilight, her soul had leaped the dragon gate to join 
the souls of her ancestors. 

And to-day Li Ping-Yeng, in the lees of life, was 
indifferent to the splendors of Ming and Sung, of 
broidered silks and carved tulip-wood. To-day there 
was only the searching for his personal tao, his inner 
consciousness removed from the lying shackles of love 
and hate, the drab fastening of form and substance 
and reality. 

Daily, as he sat by the window, he approached nearer 
to that center of cosmic life where outward activity 
counts for less than the shadow of nothing. Daily he 
felt the tide rise in his secret self, trying to blend with 
the essence of eternity. Daily, beyond the dirty clouds 
of lower Manhattan, beyond the Pell Street reek of 



TAO 233 

sewer-gas and opiumi and yellow man and white, he 
caught a little more firmly at the fringe of final ful 
fillment. 

Food ? Yes. There was still the lying reality called 
body which needed food and drink and occasionally a 
crimson-tasseled pipe filled with a sizzling, amber cube 
of first-chop opium. Also, there was the little Pekin 
ese spaniel that had once belonged to his bride, "Su 
Chang," "Reverential and Sedate," was its ludicrous 
name, and it cared nothing for tao and cosmic eter 
nity, but a great deal for sugar and chicken bones and 
bread steeped in lukewarm rqilk. 

"Woo-ooff!" said "Reverential and Sedate." 

And so, startled, yet smiling, Li Ping-Yeng went 
down-stairs to the Great Shanghai Chop Suey Palace, 
exchanged courtly greetings with the obese proprietor, 
Mr. Nag Hong Fah, and ordered a heaped bowl for 
the spaniel, and for himself a platter of rice, a pinch of 
soey cheese, a slice of preserved ginger stem, and a 
pot of tea. 

Twenty minutes later he was back in his chair near 
the window, scrutinizing sky and street. 

Unseeing, meaningless scrutiny ; for it was only the 
conscious, thus worthless, part of his brain which per 
ceived, and reacted to, the details of what he saw: 
the lemon tints of the street lamps leaping meanly out 
of the trailing, sooty dusk and centering on a vivid 
oblong of scarlet and gold where Yung Long, the 
wholesale grocer, flung his sign-board to the winds and 
proclaimed thereon in archaic Mandarin script that 
"Trade revolves like a Wheel"; an automobile-load 
of tourists gloating self-righteously over the bland, 
shuffling Mongol s base infinitudes; a whisky-soaked 
nondescript moving along with hound-like stoop and 



234 ALIEN SOULS 

flopping, ragged clothes, his face turned blindly to the 
stars and a childlike smile curling his lips; or, per 
haps, hugging the blotchy shadows of a postern, the 
tiny figure of Wuh Wang, the wife of Li Hsu, the 
hatchet-man, courting a particularly shocking fate by 
talking, face close against face, to a youth, with a 
checked suit and no forehead to speak of, whose na 
tive habitat was around the corner, on the Bowery. 

Also voices brushed up, splintered through the open 
window, the stammering, gurgling staccato of felt- 
slippered Cantonese, suggestive of a primitive utter 
ance going back to the days before speech had evolved ; 
the metallic snap and crackle of Sicilians and Cala- 
brians talking dramatically about the price of garlic 
and olive-oil; the jovial brogue of Bill Devoy, detec 
tive of Second Branch, telling a licenseless peddler to 
"beat it"; the unbearable, guttural, belching whine o 
Russian Hebrews, the Pell Street symphony, with 
the blazing roar of the elevated thumping a dissonant 
counterpoint in the distance. 

Li Ping-Yeng saw, he heard, but only with the 
conscious, the worthless part of his brain; while the 
real part, the subconscious, was occupied with the real 
ization of himself which he must master in order to 
reach the excellent and august wisdom of too the 
search of his inner soul, beyond the good and the evil, 
which, belike, he had muddied by his too great love 
for his wife. 

This tao was still too dim for him to see face to 
face. It was still beyond the touch and feel of definite 
thought. Its very possibility faded elusively when 
he tried to bring it to a focus. Yet he knew well 
what had been the basis of it. He had learned it by 
the bitterest test of which the human heart is capable 



JAO 235 

the negative test ; the test of suffering and unfulfilled 
desire; the test of acrid memory. "Memory," he would 
say to himself, over and over again, patiently, defiantly, 
almost belligerently, when the thought of his wife s 
narrow, pleasurable hands rose flush with the tide of 
his regrets and, by the same token, caused his tao 
once more to dim and fade "memory, which is of 
the dirt-clouted body, and not of the soul." 

Yet in the matter of acrid memory and unfulfilled 
desire Miss Edith Rutter, the social-settlement investi 
gator who specialized in the gliding vagaries of the 
Mongol mind as exemplified in Pell Street, had brought 
back at the time an entirely different tale, an entirely 
different interpretation of Chinese philosophy, too. 

But be it remembered that philosophy is somewhat 
affected by surroundings, and that Miss Rutter had 
been on a visit to an aunt of hers in Albany, balancing 
a Jasper ware tea-cup and cake-plate on a scrawny, 
black-taffeta-covered knee, and, about her, tired, 
threadbare furnishings that harped back to the days of 
rep curtains, horsehair chaise-longues, wax fruit, shell 
ornaments, banjo clocks, pictures of unlikely children 
playing with improbable dogs, cases of polished corne 
lian, levant-bound sets of Ouida, and unflinching, un 
compromising Protestant Christianity. 

"My dear," she had said to Aunt Eliza Jane, "the 
more I see of these Chinamen, the less I understand 
them. This man I told you about, Mr. Li Ping-Yeng; 
oh, a most charming, cultured gentleman, I assure 
you, with such grand manners! I saw him a few 
minutes after they brought home the poor crushed lit 
tle body of his young bride, his two days bride, and, 
my dear, would you believe it possible? there wasn t 
a tear in his eyes, his hands didn t even tremble. And 



236 ALIEN SOULS 

when I spoke to him, tactful, gentle, consoling words, 
what do you imagine he replied ?" 

"I ve no idea." 

"He smiled! Yes, indeed, smiled! And he said 
something I forget the exact words about his hav 
ing, perhaps, loved too much, his having perhaps been 
untrue to his inner self. I can t understand their 
philosophy. It is oh so inhuman!" She had puz 
zled. "How can anybody love too much ? What can 
he have meant by his inner self ?" 

"Pah ! heathens !" Aunt Eliza Jane had commented 
resolutely. "Have another cup of tea?" 

Thus the judgment of the whites ; and it was further 
crystallized in detective Bill Devoy s rather more 
brutal : "Say, them Chinks has got about as much 
feelings as a snake has hips. No noives no noives 
at all, see ?" and Mr. Brian Neill, the Bowery saloon 
keeper s succinct: "Sure, Mike. I hates all them 
yeller swine. They gives me the bloody creeps." 

Still, it is a moot point who is right, the Oriental, 
to whom love is less a sweeping passion than the result 
of a delicate, personal balancing on the scales of fate, 
or the Occidental, to whom love is a hectic, unthink 
ing ecstasy, though, given his racial inhibitions, often 
canopied in the gilt buckram of stiffly emotional sex- 
romanticism. 

At all events, even the humblest, earthliest coolie be 
tween Pell and Mott had understood when, the day 
after his wife s death, Li Ping-Yeng had turned to 
the assembled company in the back room of the Great 
Shanghai Chop Suey Palace, which was for yellow 
men only and bore the euphonic appellation, "The Hon 
orable Pavilion of Tranquil Longevity," and had said : 

"The ancients are right. One must preserve a proper 



TAG 2 37/ 

balance in all emotions. The man who, being selfish, 
loves too much, is even as the one who cooks the dregs 
of wretched rice over a sandalwood fire in a pot of lapis 
lazuli, or as one who uses a golden plow in preparation 
for cultivating weeds, or as one who cuts down a 
precious camphor-grove to fence in a field of coarse 
millet. Such a man is the enemy of his own too. It 
is most proper that such a man should be punished." 

After a pause he had added : 

"I am such a man, brothers. I have been punished. 
I tied my soul and my heart to a woman s jeweled ear 
rings. The ear-rings broke. The woman died. Died 
my heart and my soul. And now, where shall I find 
them again? Where shall I go to seek for my tao?" 

There had come a thick pall of silence, with only the 
angry sizzling of opium cubes as lean, yellow hands 
held them above the openings of the tiny lamps; a 
sucking of boiling-hot tea sipped by compressed lips; 
somewhere, outside, on the street, a cloudy, gurgling 
trickle of obscene abuse, presently fading into the 
memory of sounds. 

The men sighed heavily. Coolies they were, the 
sweepings of the Canton gutters and river-banks, 
cooks, waiters, grocers, petty traders; yet men of an 
ancient race, behind whom stretched forty centuries of 
civilization and culture and philosophy, in solemn, 
graven rows. Thus they were patient, slightly hard, 
not easily embarrassed,, submimely unself conscious, 
tolerant, permitting each man to look after his own 
fate, be it good or evil. Anti-social, an American 
would have called them, and he would have been wrong. 

Li Ping-Yeng had bared his naked, quivering soul 
to their gaze. He was their friend; they respected 
him. He was a rich man, an educated man. Yet Li 



238 ALIEN SOULS 

Ping-Yeng s life was his own to make or to mar. 
Sympathy? Yes; but not the arrogant indelicacy of 
help offered, of advice proffered. 

Thus they had thought, all except Yu Ch ang, the 
priest of the joss-temple. 

For many years, since he made his frugal living by 
catering to the spiritual weal of Pell Street, it had been 
the latter s custom, when he foregathered with his 
countrymen, to gain face for himself and his sacerdotal 
caste by talking with nagging, pontifical unction about 
things religious and sectarian. But, being a hedge- 
priest, self-appointed, who had received only scanty 
training in the wisdom of the "three precious ones," 
the Buddha past, the Buddha present, and the Buddha 
future, he had found it hard to uphold his end when 
tackled by Li Ping-Yeng, the banker, the literatus, 
anent the contents of such abstruse books of theolog 
ical learning as the "Park of Narratives," "Ku-liang s 
Commentaries," or the "Diamond Sutra." 

Now, with the other baring his bleeding soul, he 
had seen a chance of settling the score, of causing 
him to lose a great deal of face. 

"Little brother," he had purred, "I am a man of 
religion, a humble seeker after truth, whose knowledge 
is not to be compared with yours ; yet have I thought 
much. I have thought left and thought right. Often 
in the past have we differed, you and I, on minor 
matters of philosophy and ceremonial. May I, the 
very useless one, address words of advice to you, the 
great literatus?" 

"Please do." 

"Ah ! Then let me reply with the words of Confu 
cius, that he who puts too much worth on worthless 
things, such as the love of woman, the love of the 



TAO 239 

flesh, is like the wolf and the hare, leaving the direc 
tion of his steps to low passions. To lead such a man 
into the august ways of tao is as futile as tethering an 
elephant with the fiber of the young lotus, as futile 
as the attempt to cut a diamiond with a piece of wood, 
as futile as trying to sweeten the salt sea with a drop 
of honey, or to squeeze oil from sand. Ah, ahee!" 
He had spread out his fingers like the sticks of a fan 
and had looked about him with brutal triumph. 

The other s features, as yellow as old parchment, 
indifferent, dull, almost sleepy, had curled in a queer, 
slow smile. He was smoking his fourth pipe, a pipe 
of carved silver, with a green-amber mouthpiece and 
black tassels. The room had gradually filled with 
scented fog. The objects scattered about had lost their 
outlines, and the embroidered stuffs on the walls had 
gleamed less brilliantly. Only the big, violet-shaded 
lanterns on the ceiling had continued to give some light, 
since poppy vapors are slow to rise and float nearer 
the ground. 

"You are wrong, wise priest," he had replied. 

"Wrong?" 

"Yes. For there is one who can tether the elephant 
with the fiber of the young lotus, who can cut a dia 
mond with a piece of soft wood, sweeten the salt sea 
with a drop of honey, and squeeze oil from sand." 

"Who?" Yu Ch ang had asked, smiling crookedly 
at the grave assembly of Chinese who sat there, suck 
ing in their breath through thin lips, their faces like 
carved ivory masks. 

Li Ping-Yeng had made a great gesture. 

"The Excellent Buddha," he had replied, in low, 
even, passionless, monotonous accents that were in 
curious, almost inhuman, contrast to the sublime, 



240 ALIEN SOULS 

sweeping faith in his choice of words. "The Omni 
scient Gautama! The All-Seeing Tathagata! The 
Jewel in the Lotus! The most perfectly awakened 
Blessed One who meditates in heaven on His seven- 
stepped throne !" 

And again the grave assembly of Chinese had sat 
very still, sucking in their breath, staring at their neat, 
slippered feet f romf underneath heavy, hooded eyelids, 
intent, by the token of their austere racial simplicity, 
on effacing their personalities from the focus of alien 
conflict ; and then, like many a priest of many a creed 
before him, Yu Ch ang, sensing the silent indifference 
of his countrymen and interpreting it as a reproach to 
his hierarchical caste, had let his rage get the better 
of his professional, sacerdotal hypocrisy. 

"The Buddha? Here? In Pell Street?" he had 
exclaimed. He had laughed hoarsely, meanly. "Find 
Him, the Excellent One, the Perfect One, in Pell 
Street? Look for the shining glory of His face here 
in the soot and grease and slippery slime of Pell 
Street? Search, belike, for fish on top of the moun 
tain, and for horns on the head of the cat ! Bah !" He 
had spat out the word, had risen, crossed over to the 
window, thrown it wide, and pointed to the west, 
where a great, slow wind was stalking through the sky, 
picking up fluttering rags of cloud. "Go ! Find Him, 
the Buddha, in the stinking, rotten heaven of Pell 
Street! Go, go by all means! And, perhaps, when 
you have found Him, you will also have found your 
tao, fool!" 

"I shall try," had come Li Ping-Yeng s reply. "Yes ; 
most decidedly shall I try." He had walked to the 
door. There he had turned. "Little brother," he 
had said to the priest over his shoulder, without malice 



TAG 241 

or hurt or bitterness, "and why should I not find Him 
even in the Pell Street gutters? Why should I not 
find my tao even in the stinking, rotten heaven that 
vaults above Pell Street? Tell me. Is not my soul 
still my soul? Is not the diamond still a diamond, 
even after it has fallen into the dung-heap?" 

And he had stepped out into the night, staring up 
at the purple-black sky, his coat flung wide apart, his 
lean, yellow hands raised high, indifferent to the rain 
that had begun to come down in flickering sheets. 

"Say, John, wot s the matter? Been hittin the old 
pipe too much? Look out! One o these fine days I ll 
raid that joint o yours," had come detective Bill 
Devoy s genial brogue from a door-way where he had 
taken refuge against the elements. 

Li Ping-Yeng had not heard, had not replied ; except 
to talk to himself, perhaps to the heaven, perhaps to 
the Buddha, in staccato Mongol monosyllables, which, 
had Bill Devoy been able to understand, would have 
convinced him more than ever that that there Chink 
was a sure-enough hop-head : 

"Permit me to cross the torrent of grief, O Buddha, 
as, even now, I am crossing the stream of passion! 
Give me a stout raft to gain the other side of blessed 
ness! Show me the way, O King!" 

Back in the honorable Pavilion of Tranquil Lon 
gevity, slant eye had looked meaningly into slant 
eye. 

"Ah, perhaps indeed he will find his tao," Yung 
Long, the wholesale grocer, had breathed gently; and 
then to Yu Ch ang, who had again broken into harsh, 
mean cackling, said : 

"Your mouth is like a running tap, O very great and 
very uncouth cockroach !" 



2 4 2 ALIEN SOULS 

"Aye, a tap spouting filthy water." This was from 
Nag Sen Yat, the opium merchant. 

"A tap which, presently, I shall stop with my fist," 
said Nag Hop Fat, the soothsayer, winding up the 
pleasant round of Oriental metaphor. 

Thus was displayed, then, the serene, if negative, 
sympathy of the Pell Street confraternity, further 
demonstrated by its denizens leaving Li Ping-Yeng 
hereafter severely alone and by replying to all questions 
and remarks of outsiders with the usual formula of 
the Mongol when he does not wish to commit himself : 
"No savvy!" 

"I feel so terribly sorry for him," this from Miss 
Edith Rutter, "Is there really nothing I can do to " 

"No savvy." 

"Looka here," from Bill Devoy, "you tell that 
brother-Chink o yourn, that there Li Ping-Yeng, to 
stop hittin the black smoke, or I ll pinch him on spec, 
see?" 

"No savvy." 

"Listen !" from the old Spanish woman who kept 
the second-hand store around the corner, on the Bow 
ery, "What do you think he s going to do with all 
the truck he bought for his wife? I d like to buy the 
lot. Now, if you want to earn a commission " 

"No savvy." 

"Is he goin* t* try holy matrimony again, or near- 
matrimony?" from Mr. Brian Neill, the saloon 
keeper, who occasionally added to his income by un 
savory deals between the yellow and the white, 
"For, if he wants another goil, there s a peacherino 
of a red-headed good-looker that blows into my back 
parlor once in a while and that don t mind Chinks as 
long s they got the kale " 



TAG 243 

"No savvy." 

And even to the emissary of a very great Wall Street 
bank that in the past had handled certain flourishing 
Manila and Canton and Hankow accounts for the Pell 
Street banker, and who, unable to locate him personally 
and being slightly familiar with Chinese customs, had 
sought out the head of the latter s masonic lodge and 
had asked him why Li Ping-Yeng had retired from 
business, and if, at all events, he wouldn t help 
them with the unraveling of a knotty financial tangle 
in far Shen-si. Even there was the same singsong 
answer : 

"No savvy," exasperatingly, stonily repeated. 

"No savvy, no savvy." 

For two days after his wife s tragic death Li Ping- 
Yeng, to quote his own words, had given up vigorously 
threshing mere straw, by which term he meant all the 
every-day, negligible realities of life. 

He had begun by selling his various business inter 
ests; nor, since he was a prosy Mongol whose brain 
functioned with the automatic precision of a photo 
graphic shutter and was nowise affected by whatever 
was going on in his soul, had he made a bad deal. On 
the contrary, he had bargained shrewdly down to the 
last fraction of a cent. 

Then, prudently, deliberately, the patient and materi 
alistic Oriental even in matters of the spirit, he had 
swept his mind clear of everything except the search 
for his tao, the search for his salvation. This tao was 
to him a concrete thing, to be concretely achieved, since 
it was to link him, intimately and strongly, not with, 
as would have been the case had he been a Christian, 
an esoteric principle, a more or less recondite, theo 
logical dogma, but with a precious and beneficent in- 



244 ALIEN SOULS 

fluence that, although invisible, was not in the least 
supernatural. For he was of the East, Eastern; he 
did not admit the existence of the very word "super 
natural." To him everything was natural, since 
everything, even the incredible, the impossible, the 
never-to-be-understood, had its secret, hidden roots in 
some evolution of nature, of the Buddha, the blessed 
Fo, the active and eternal principle of life and creation. 

Perhaps at the very first his search had not been 
quite as concise, had rather shaped itself to his per 
plexed, groping mind in the terms of a conflict, a dis 
tant and mysterious encounter with the forces of fate, 
of which his wife s death had been but a visible, out 
ward fragment. 

Then, gradually and by this time it had become 
spring, wakening to the white-and-pink fragrance of 
the southern breezes spring that, occasionally, even 
in Pell Street, painted a sapphire sky as pure as the 
laughter of little children he had stilled the poignant 
questionings of his unfulfilled desires, his fleshly love, 
and had turned the search for his tao into more prac 
tical channels. 

Practical, though of the soul ! For, again, to him, 
a Chinese, the soul was a tangible thing. Matter it 
was, to be constructively influenced and molded and 
clouted and fashioned. It had seemed to him to hold 
the life of to-morrow, beside which his life of to-day 
and yesterday had faded into the drabness of a 
wretched dream. He had wanted this to-morrow, had 
craved it, sensing in it a freedom magnificently remote 
from the smaller personal existence he had known 
heretofore, feeling that, presently, when he would have 
achieved merit, it would stab out of the heavens with 



TAO 245 

a giant rush of splendor and, greatly, blessedly, 
overwhelm him and destroy his clogging, individual 
entity. 

But how was this to be attained? Had he been a 
Hindu ascetic, or even a member of certain Christian 
sects, he would have flagellated his body, would have 
gone through the ordeal of physical pain. But, a Mon 
gol, thus stolidly unromantic and rational, almost tor 
pidly sane, he had done nothing of the sort. On the 
contrary, he had continued to take good care of him 
self. True, he had begun to eat less, but not pur 
posely ; simply because his appetite had decreased. And 
his real reason for keeping his wife s Pekinese spaniel 
tucked in his sleeve was because "Reverential and Se 
date" reminded him when it was time for luncheon 
or dinner, hours he might otherwise have forgotten. 

The idea of suicide had never entered his reckoning, 
since he held the belief of half Asia, that suicide de 
stroys the body and not the soul; that it is only a 
crude and slightly amateurish interruption of the pres 
ent life, leaving the thread of it still more raveled and 
tangled and knotted for the next life, and yet the 
next. 

He had passed over the obvious solution of devoting 
himself to charity, to the weal of others, as it had 
seemed to him but another instance of weak and selfish 
vanity, fully as weak and selfish as the love of woman ; 
and the solace of religion he had dismissed with the 
same ready, smiling ease. Religion, to him, was not 
an idea, but a stout, rectangular entity, a great force 
and principle, that did its appointed duty not because 
people believed in it, but because it was. The Buddha 
would help him, if it be so incumbent by fate upon 



246 ALIEN SOULS 

the Buddha, regardless, if he prayed to him or not, if 
he memorized the sacred scriptures, if he burned 
sweet-scented Hunshuh incense-sticks before the gilt 
altar or not. For the Buddha, too, was tied firmly to 
the Wheel of Things. The Buddha, too, had to do his 
appointed task. Thus, Li Ping-Yeng had decided, 
prayers would be a waste of time, since they could not 
influence the Excellent One one way or the other. 

How, then, could he acquire sufficient merit so as 
to reach his tao, beyond the good and the evil? 

Of course, first of all, mainly, by tearing from his 
body and heart even the last root of the liana of desire, 
of love, of regret for his wife; by again and again 
denying, impugning, destroying the thought of her, 
though, again and again, it would rise to the nostrils 
of his remembrance, with a stalely sweet scent like the 
ghost of dead lotus-blossoms. 

She was on the shadow side of the forever. Her 
soul, he would repeat to himself, incessantly, defiantly, 
belligerently, had leaped the dragon gate. Broken 
were the fetters that had held him a captive to the 
tinkle-tinkle-tinkle of her jeweled ear-rings. A mere 
picture she was, painted on the screen of eternity, im 
personal, immensely aloof, passed from the unrealities 
of the earth life to the realities of the further cosmos. 
He must banish the thought of her, must forget her. 

And he did forget her, again and again, with the 
effort, the pain of forgetting choking his heart. 

Sitting by the window, his subconscious mind cen 
tered on his tao, his salvation, the blessed destruction 
of his individual entity, "Reverential and Sedate" hud 
dled in a fold of his loose sleeve, scrutinizing street 
and sky with unseeing eyes, he would forget her 
through the long, greasy days, while the reek of Pell 



TAG 247 

Street rose up to the tortured clouds with a mingled 
aroma of sweat and blood and opium and suffering, 
while the strident clamor of Pell Street blended with 
the distant clamor of the Broadway mart. 

He would forget her through the long, dim evenings, 
while the sun died in a gossamer veil of gold and 
mauve, and the moon cut out of the ether, bloated 
and anemic and sentimental, and the night vaulted 
to a purple canopy, pricked with chilly, indifferent 
stars. 

He would sit there, silent, motionless, and forget, 
while the stars died, and the moon and the night, and 
the sky flushed to the opal of young morning, and 
again came day and the sun and the reek and the maze 
and the soot and the clamors of Pell Street. 

Forgetting, always forgetting; forgetting his love, 
forgetting the tiny bound feet of the Plum Blossom, 
the Lotus Bud, the Crimson Butterfly. Her little, 
little feet! Ahee! He had made his heart a carpet 
for her little, little feet. 

Forgetting, reaching up to his tao with groping 
soul; and then again the thought of his dead wife, 
again his tao slipping back ; again the travail of forget 
ting, to be forever repeated. 

And so one day he died; and it was Wuh Wang, 
the little, onyx-eyed, flighty wife of Li Hsu, the 
hatchet-man, who, perhaps, speaking to Tzu Mo, the 
daughter of Yu Ch ang, the priest, grasped a fragment 
of the truth. 

"Say, kid," she slurred in the Pell Street jargon, 
"that there Li Ping-Yeng wot s kicked the bucket th 
other day, well, you know wot them Chinks said how 
he was always trying to get next to that now tao 
of his by trying to forget his wife. Well, mebbe he 



248 ALIEN SOULS 

was all wrong. Mebbe his tao wasn t forgetting at 
all. Mebbe it was just his love for her, his always 
thinking of her, his not forgetting her that was his 
real tao." 

"Mebbe," replied Tzu Mo. "I should worry!" 



THE END 



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