Skip to main content

Full text of "Orpheus in Mayfair, and other stories and sketches"

See other formats


FROMTHELIBRARYOF- 
PAULNMILIUKOV- 




I 1 

Mills & Boon's New Novels 

Crown 8vo. 6s. each 



ARSENE LUPIN. Edgar Jepson and Maurice 
Leblanc. 

THE PRODIGAL FATHER. J. Storer Clouston. 

HARM'S WAY. Lloyd Osbourne. 

MARY. Winifred Graham. 

THE KINGDOM OF EARTH. Anthony Par- 
tridge. 

ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR. Maurice Baring. 

THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN JACK. Max 

Pemberton. A volume of stories. 

THE END AND THE BEGINNING. Cosmo 
Hamilton, Author of "Adam's Clay." 3s. 6d. 

CARDILLAC. Robert Barr. 

DRAW IN YOUR STOOL. Oliver Onions. 

ROYAL LOVERS : The Adventures of Two Em- 
presses. Helene Vacaresco. 

TESS OF ITHACA. Grace Miller White. 

BRUMMEL IN LONDON. Cosmo Hamilton. 

HOLBORN HILL. Christian Tearle. 

THE LADY CALPHURNIA ROYAL. Albert 

Dorrington and A. G. Stephens. 
THE LAST LORD AVANLEY. Gerald Maxwell. 
THE FIRST LAW. Lady Troubridge. 
ELISABETH DAVENAY. Claire de Pratz. 

THE STAIRWAY OF HONOUR. Mrs Stepney 

Rawson. 
THE BILL-TOPPERS. Andre Castaigne. 

MR BURNSIDE'S RESPONSIBILITY. Thomas 
Cobb, Author of "A Change of Face." 

MARY UP AT GAFFRIES. S. C. Nethersole. 

THE VEIL. E. S. Stevens. 

MISS PILSBURY'S FORTUNE. C. R. Shand. 

MY LADY WENTWORTH. Allan Fea. 




ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 



AND OTHER STORIES 
AND SKETCHES 



ORPHEUS IN MAY FAIR 

AND OTHER STORIES AND 
SKETCHES 



BY 



MAURICE BARING 

!( 



MILLS & BOON, LIMITED 

49 WHITCOMB STREET 

LONDON W.C. 



Published August igog 
KOV USRAfiY 



To 
ETHEL SMYTH 



82430$ 



NOTE 

Most of the stories and sketches in 
this book have appeared in the 
Morning Post. One of them was 
published in the Westminster Gazette. 
I have to thank the editors and pro- 
prietors concerned for their kindness 
in allowing me to republish them. 



CONTENTS 



I. Orpheus in Mayfair 
II. The Cricket Match 

III. The Shadow of a Midnight 

IV. Jean Francois 

V. The Flute of Chang Liang 
VI. " What is Truth ? " 
VII. A Luncheon-Party 
VIII. Fete Galante 
IX. The Garland 
X. The Spider's Web 
XL Edward II. at Berkeley Castle 
XII. The Island 

XIII. The Man Who gave Good Advice 

XIV. Russalka .... 
XV. The Old Woman . 



i5 

25 

35 

45 

55 

65 

95 

105 

"5 

125 

i33 

i45 

i55 
167 



x CONTENTS 




XVI. Dr Faust's Last Day . 


PAGE 
177 


XVII. The Flute-Player's Story 


I89 


XVIII. A Chinaman on Oxford . 


217 


XIX. Venus .... 


229 


XX. The Fire .... 


' 247 


XXI. The Conqueror . 


255 


XXII. The Ikon .... 


265 


XXIII. The Thief 


277 


XXIV. The Star . 


287 


XXV. Chun Wa . 


297 



I 

ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 



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

They had two children, a little girl and a little 
boy ; they were very much in love with each other, 
as happy as birds, and as poor as church mice. 
For Heraclius Themistocles got but few pupils, 
and although he had sung in public at one or two 
concerts, and had not been received unfavourably, 
he failed to obtain engagements to sing in private 
houses, which was his ambition. He hoped by 
this means to become well known, and then to be 
able to give recitals of his own where he would 



4 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 

reveal to the world those tunes in which he knew 
the spirit of Hellas breathed. The whole desire 
of his life was to bring back and to give to the world 
the forgotten but undying Song of Greece. In 
spite of this, the modest advertisement which was 
to be found at concert agencies announcing that 
Mr Heraclius - Themistocles Margaritis was willing 
to attend evening parties and to give an exhibition 
of Greek music, ancient and modern, had as yet 
met with no response. After he had been a year 
in England the only steps towards making a 
fortune were two public performances at charity 
matinees, one or two pupils in pianoforte playing, 
and an occasional but rare engagement for stray 
pupils at a school of modern languages. 

It was in the middle of the second summer after 
his arrival that an incident occurred which proved 
to be the turning point of his career. A London 
hostess was giving a party in honour of a foreign 
Personage. It had been intimated that some kind 
of music would be expected. The hostess had 
neither the means nor the desire to secure for 
her entertainment stars of the first magnitude, 
but she gathered together some lesser lights a 
violinist, a pianist, and a singer of French drawing- 
room melodies. On the morning of the day on 
which her concert was to be given, the hostess 
received a telegram from the singer of French 
drawing-room melodies to say that she had got 



ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 5 

a bad cold, and could not possibly sing that night. 
The hostess was in despair, but a musical friend 
of hers came to the rescue, and promised to obtain 
for her an excellent substitute, a man who sang 
Greek songs. 

When Margaritis received the telegram from 
Arkwright's Agency that he was to sing that night 

at A House, he was overjoyed, and could 

scarcely believe his eyes. He at once communicated 
the news to Tina, and they spent hours in discuss- 
ing what songs he should sing, who the good fairy 
could have been who recommended him, and in 
building castles in the air with regard to the result 
of this engagement. He would become famous ; 
they would have enough money to go to Italy for 
a holiday ; he would give concerts ; he would 
reveal to the modern world the music of Hellas. 

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

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

" It's not that," said Tina, " it's Carlo ! " Carlo 



6 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 

was their little boy, who was nearly four years 
old. 

" What ? " said Margaritis. 

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

Margaritis turned pale. u Let me see him," 
he said. " We must get a doctor." 

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

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

Margaritis took a telegraph form out of a shabby 
leather portfolio, sat down before the dining-table 
on which the cloth had been laid for tea (for 
the sitting-room was the dining-room also), and 
wrote out the telegram. And as he wrote his tears 
fell on the writing and smudged it. His grief 



ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 7 

overcame him, and he buried his face in his hands 
and sobbed. " What the Fates give with one 
hand," he thought to himself, " they take away 
with another ! " Then he heard himself, he knew 
not why, invoking the gods of Greece, the ancient 
gods of Olympus, to help him. And at that 
moment the whole room seemed to be filled with a 
strange light, and he saw the wonderful figure of a 
man with a shining face and eyes that seemed 
infinitely sad and at the same time infinitely 
luminous. The figure held a lyre, and said to 
him in Greek : 

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

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

The party at A House that night was brilliant 

rather than large. In one of the drawing-rooms 
there was a piano, in front of which were six or 
seven rows of gilt chairs. The other rooms were 
filled with shifting groups of beautiful women, 
and men wearing orders and medals. There was a 
continuous buzz of conversation, except in the 
room where the music was going on ; and even 
there in the background there was a subdued 
whispering. The violinist was playing some 
elaborate nothings, and displaying astounding 
facility, but the audience did not seem to be much 



8 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 

interested, for when he stopped, after some faint 
applause, conversation broke loose like a torrent. 

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

M It's an extraordinary thing," answered the 
lady, " that nobody dares give a party in London 
without some kind of entertainment. It is such 
a mistake ! " 

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

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

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

" Hush ! " said the lady, and the first song 
began. It was a strange thread of sound that 
came upon the ears of the listeners, rather high 
and piercing, and the accompaniment (Margaritis 
accompanied himself) was twanging and mono- 
tonous like the sound of an Indian tom-tom. The 
same phrase was repeated two or three times over, 
the melody seemed to consist of only a very few 
notes, and to come over and over again with extra- 



ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 9 

ordinary persistence. Then the music rose into a 
high shrill call and ended abruptly. 

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

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

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

" I don't believe he's a Greek at all," said the 
man. " His songs are just like the noise of bag- 
pipes." 

" I daresay he's Scotch," said the lady. " Scotch- 
men are very clever. But I must say his songs are 
short." 

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



io ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 

was heard, but it was instantly suppressed when 
the audience became aware that the song was 
not over. 

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

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

Sir Anthony Holds worth, who had translated 
Pindar, was talking to Ralph Enderby, who had 
written a book on " Modern Greek Folk Lore." 

" It hurts me," said Sir Anthony, " to hear 
ancient Greek pronounced like that. It is im- 
possible to distinguish the words ; besides which 
it's wrong to pronounce ancient Greek like modern 
Greek. Did you understand it ? " 

" No," said Ralph Enderby, " I did not. If it 
is modern Greek it was certainly wrongly pro- 



ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR n 

nounced. I think the man must be singing some 
kind of Asiatic dialect unless he's a fraud." 

Hard by there was another group discussing 
the music : Blythe, the musical critic, and Lawson, 
who had the reputation of being a great connoisseur. 
" He's distinctly clever," Blythe was saying ; 
" the songs are amusing * pastiches ' of Eastern 
folk song." 

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

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

As soon as the music had stopped, James Redd- 
away, who was a Member of Parliament, left the 
house and went home. He was engrossed in 
politics, and had little time at his disposal for 
anything else. As soon as he got home he went 
up to his wife's bedroom ; she had not been able 
to go to the party owing to a sudden attack of 
neuralgia. She asked him to tell her all about it. 
u Well," he said, " there were the usual people 
there, and there was some music : some violin 



12 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 

and piano playing, to which I didn't listen. 
After that a man sang some Greek songs, and a 
curious thing happened to me. When it began 
I felt my head swimming, and then I entirely lost 
account of my surroundings. I forgot the party, 
the drawing-room and the people, and I seemed 
to be sitting on the rocks of a cliff near a small bay ; 
in front of me was the sea : it was a kind of blue 
green, but far more blue or at least of quite a 
different kind of blue than any I have seen. It 
was transparent, and the sky above it was like a 
turquoise. Behind me the cliff merged into a hill 
which was covered with red and white flowers, as 
bright as a Persian carpet. On the beach in front, 
a tall man was standing, wading in the water, 
little bright waves sparkling round his feet. He 
was tall and dark, and he was spearing a lot of 
little silver fish which were lying on the sand 
with a small wooden trident ; and somewhere 
behind me a voice was singing. I could not see 
where it came from, but it was wonderfully soft 
and delicious, and a lot of wild bees came swarming 
over the flowers, and a green lizard came right up 
close to me, and the air was burning hot, and 
there was a smell of thyme and mint in it. And 
then the song stopped, and I came to myself, and 
I was back again in the drawing-room. Then 
when the man began to sing again, I again lost 
consciousness, and I seemed to be in a dark orchard 



ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 13 

on a breathless summer night. And somewhere 
near me there was a low white house with an open- 
ing which might have been a window, shrouded 
by creepers and growing things. And in it there 
was a faint light. And from the house came the 
sound of a sad love-song ; and although I had 
never heard the song before I understood it, and 
it was about the moon and the Pleiads having set, 
and the hour passing, and the voice sang, ' But 
I sleep alone ! ' And this was repeated over and 
over again, and it was the saddest and most beauti- 
ful thing I had ever heard. And again it stopped, 
and I was back again in the drawing-room. Then 
when the singer began his third song I felt cold all 
over, and at the same time half suffocated, as 
people say they feel when they are nearly 
drowning. I realised that I was in a huge, dark, 
empty space, and round me and far off in front of 
me were vague shadowy forms ; and in the dis- 
tance there was something which looked like two 
tall thrones, pillared and dim. And on one of 
the thrones there was the dark form of a man, and 
on the other a woman like a queen, pale as marble, 
and unreal as a ghost, with great grey eyes that 
shone like moons. In front of them was another 
form, and he was singing a song, and the song was 
so sad and so beautiful that tears rolled down the 
shadowy cheeks of the ghosts in front of me. And 
all at once the singer gave a great' cry of joy, and 



14 ORPHEUS IN MAYFAIR 

something white and blinding flashed past me 
and disappeared, and he with it. But I remained 
in the same place with the dark ghosts far off in 
front of me. And I seemed to be there an eternity 
till I heard a cry of desperate pain and anguish, 
and the white form flashed past me once more, 
and vanished, and with it the whole thing, and I 
was back again in the drawing-room, and I felt 
faint and giddy, and could not stay there any 
longer/' 



II 

THE CRICKET MATCH 

AN INCIDENT AT A PRIVATE SCHOOL 

To Winston Churchill 



J*- 



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

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

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

T* 17 



18 THE CRICKET MATCH 

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

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

They climbed up on to the wooden scaffold- 
ing and organised a game of their own, an utterly 
childish game, which consisted of one boy throw- 
ing some dried horse chestnuts from the top of 
the scaffolding into the mouth of the boy at 



THE CRICKET MATCH 19 

the bottom. They soon became engrossed in 
their occupation, and were thoroughly enjoying 
themselves, when one of the masters, Mr Whitehead 
by name, came towards them with a face like 
thunder, biting his knuckles, a thing which he did 
when he was very angry. 

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

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

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

" Whitey," said Gordon, " was in an awful 
wax ! " 

M I don't care," said Smith. " I'd just as soon 
sit here as look on at that beastly match." 

" But why," said Hart, " have we got to do two 
hours' work ? " 

" Oh," said Gordon, " he's just in a wax, that's 
all." 

And the matter was not further discussed. At 



20 THE CRICKET MATCH 

six o'clock the boys had tea. The cricket match 
had, of course, resulted in a crushing and over- 
whelming defeat for St James's. The rival eleven 
had been asked to tea ; there were cherries for 
tea in their honour. 

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

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

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



THE CRICKET MATCH 21 

" The whole school," he said, " will come to the 
library in ten minutes' time/' 

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

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

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



22 THE CRICKET MATCH 

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

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

" I had thought," he said, " that there were in 
this school some boys who had a notion of gentle- 
manly behaviour, manly conduct, and common 
decency. I see that I was mistaken. The be- 
haviour of certain of you to-day I will not mention 
them because of their exceeding shame, but you 
will all know whom I mean. ..." At this moment 
all the boys turned round and looked hard at Gordon, 
Smith, and Hart minor, who blushed scarlet, and 
whose eyes filled with tears. ..." The less said 
about the matter the better," continued the head- 
master, " but I confess that it is difficult for me 
to understand how any one, however young, can be 
so hardened and so wanton as to behave in the 
callous and indecent way in which certain of you 
I need not mention who have behaved to-day. 



THE CRICKET MATCH 23 

You have disgraced the school in the eyes of 
strangers ; you have violated the laws of hospi- 
tality and courtesy ; you have shown that in St 
James's there is not a gleam of patriotism, not a 
spark of interest in the school, not a touch of that 
ordinary common English manliness, that sense 
for the interests of the school and the community 
which makes Englishmen what they are. The boys 
who have been most guilty in this matter have 
already been punished, and I do not propose to 
punish them further ; but I had intended to take 
the whole school for an expedition to the New 
Forest next week. That expedition will be put off : 
in fact it will never take place. Only the eleven 
shall go, and I trust that another time the miserable 
idlers and loafers who have brought this shame, 
this disgrace on the school, who have no self-respect 
and no self-control, who do not know how to behave 
like gentlemen, who are idle, vulgar and depraved, 
will learn by this lesson to mend their ways and to 
behave better in the future. But I am sorry to 
say that it is not only the chief offenders, who, as 
I have already said, have been punished, who are 
guilty in this matter. Many of the other boys, 
although they did not descend to the depths of 
vulgar behaviour reached by the culprits I have 
mentioned, showed a considerable lack of patriotism 
by their apathy and their lack of attention while 
the cricket match was proceeding this afternoon. 



24 THE CRICKET MATCH 

I can only hope that this may be a lesson to you all ; 
but while I trust the chief offenders will feel specially 
uncomfortable, I wish to impress upon you that 
you are all, with the exception of the eleven, in a 
sense guilty." 

With these words the headmaster swept' out of 
the room. 

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

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

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

" No," said Worthing, " he whistled twice." 

" Oh ! " said Gordon, " I didn't know that. Of 
course, he can't go ! " 



Ill 

THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 

A GHOST STORY 



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

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

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

" What is it ? " asked Marie Nikolaevna. 

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

27 



28 THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 

" Tell us the story," I said. 

" As you won't believe a word of it," Jameson 
repeated, "it's not much use my telling it." 

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

" Two years ago," he said, " I was at Heidelberg, 
at the University, and I made friends with a young 
fellow called Braun. His parents were German, 
but he had lived five or six years in America, and 
he was practically an American. I made his 
acquaintance by chance at a lecture, when I first 
arrived, and he helped me in a number of ways. 
He was an energetic and kind-hearted fellow, and 
we became great friends. He was a student, but 
he did not belong to any Korps or Bursenschaft, 
as he was working hard then. Afterwards he be- 
came an engineer. When the summer Semester 
came to an end, we both stayed on at Heidelberg. 
One day Braun suggested that we should go for a 
walking tour and explore the country. I was only 
too pleased,and we started. It was glorious weather, 
and we enjoyed ourselves hugely. On the third 
night after we had started we arrived at a village 
called Salzheim. It was a picturesque little place, 
and there was a curious old church in it with some 
interesting tombs and relics of the Thirty Years 
War. But the inn where we put up for the night 
was even more picturesque than the church. It 
had once been a convent for nuns, only the greater 



THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 29 

part of it had been burnt, and only a quaint gabled 
house, and a kind of tower covered with ivy, which 
I suppose had once been the belfry, remained. We 
had an excellent supper and went to bed early. 
We had been given two bedrooms, which were 
airy and clean, and altogether we were satisfied. 
My bedroom opened into Braun's, which was be- 
yond it, and had no other door of its own. It was 
a hot night in July, and Braun asked me to leave 
the door open. I did we opened both the windows. 
Braun went to bed and fell asleep almost directly, 
for very soon I heard his snores. 

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

" When the clock struck a quarter to twelve I 



30 THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 

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

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

" The next thing I remember was waking with a 
start. It seemed to me that some one had shut the 
door between my room and Braun's. I felt for the 
matches. The match-box was empty. Up to that 
moment I cannot tell why something an un- 
accountable dread had prevented me looking at 



THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 31 

the door. I made an effort and looked. It was 
shut, and through the cracks and through the 
keyhole I saw the glimmer of a light. Braun had 
lit his candle. I called him, not very loudly : 
there was no answer. I called again more loudly : 
there was still no answer. 

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

" Suddenly, as I was standing transfixed with 
fright in front of the door, I heard sounds coming 
from Braun's room, a shuffle of footsteps, and 
voices talking low but distinctly in a language I 
could not understand. It was not Italian, 
Spanish, nor French. The voices grew all at 
once louder ; I heard the noise of a struggle and 
a cry which ended in a stifled groan, very painful 
and horrible to hear. Then, whether I regained 
my self-control, or whether it was excess of fright 



32 THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 

which prompted me, I don't know, but I flew to 
the door and tried to open it. Some one or some- 
thing was pressing with all its might against it. 
Then I screamed at the top of my voice, and as I 
screamed I heard the cock crow. 

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

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

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

" And now I suppose you are all wondering what 
this can have to do with anything that's in the 
newspaper. Well, listen," and he read out the 
following paragraph from the Rouskoe Slovo : 

M Samara, n, ix. In the centre of the town, 

in the Hotel , a band of armed swindlers 

attacked a German engineer named Braun and 
demanded money. On his refusal one of the 



THE SHADOW OF A MIDNIGHT 33 

robbers stabbed Braun with a knife. The robbers, 
taking the money which was on him, amounting 
to 500 roubles, got away. Braun called for assis- 
tance, but died of his wounds in the night. It 
appears that he had met the swindlers at a 
restaurant." 

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



IV 
JEAN FRANgOIS 



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

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

37 



38 JEAN FRANCOIS 

Again, the ballade of which the " Envoi " runs : 

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

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

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



JEAN FRANQOIS 39 

from his " Trent e deux Triolets joyeux and tristes " 
are an example of his twofold temperament. 
They run thus in the literal and exact translations 
of them made by an eminent official : 

I wish I was dead, 
And lay deep in the grave. 

I've a pain in my head, 

I wish I was dead. 

In a coffin of lead 
With the Wise and the Brave 

I wish I was dead, 
And lay deep in the grave. 

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

Thank God I'm alive 

In the light of the Sun ! 
It's a quarter to five ; 
Thank God I'm alive ! 
Now the hum of the hive 

Of the world has begun, 
Thank God I'm alive 

In the light of the Sun ! 

A more plaintive, in fact a positively wistful 
note, which is almost incongruous amongst the 
definite and sharply defined moods of Jean Francois, 
is struck in the sonnet of which only the first line 
has reached us : " I wish I had a hundred thousand 



40 JEAN FRANCOIS 

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

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

And it is of his death and not of his life or works 
which I wish to tell, for it was singular. He died 
on Christmas Eve, 1432. The winter that year in 
the north of France was, as is well known, terrible 



JEAN FRANCOIS 41 

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



42 JEAN FRANCOIS 

offering a large sum in silver coin to the man who 
should bring him, alive or dead, to justice. 

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

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

" Where do you live ? " asked Jean. 

" My father is the Sieur de Ranquet," said the 
child. 



JEAN FRANCOIS 43 

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

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

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

" All right," said Jean, " climb on my back." 

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

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

But in the night Jean dreamed a dream : he 
saw a child in glittering clothes and with a shining 



44 JEAN FRANCOIS 

face who came into the dungeon and broke the 
bars. 

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

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

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

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



V 
THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 

To P. Kershaw 



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

This smaller cottage had an uncultivated garden 
in front of it, and a kind of natural summer-house 
made by the twining of a pumpkin plant which 

47 



48 THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 

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

The sunset faded into a twilight of delicious 
summer calm. 

From the hills in the east came the noise of a few 
shots fired by the batteries there, and a captive 
balloon soared slowly, like a soap-bubble, into the 
eastern sky. I walked into the village ; here and 



THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 49 

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

I thought I had been sleeping for a long time 
and had woken before the dawn : the earth was 
misty, although the moon was shining ; and I was 
no longer in the temple, but back once more at the 

D 



50 THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 

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

As I wondered what all this meant, a note of 
music came stealing through the night, and at first 
it seemed to be the same tune as I heard in the 
temple before I dropped off to sleep ; but presently 
I was sure that this was a mistake, for the sound was 
richer and more mellow, and like that of a bell, 
only of an enchanted bell, such as that which is 
fabled to sound beneath the ocean. And the music 
seemed to rise and fall, to grow clear and full, and 
just as it was floating nearer and nearer, it died 



THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 51 

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



52 THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 

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

And I felt certain that I had heard the flute of 
Chang Liang this night and that the soldiers had 
heard it too ; for now round a fire a group of them 
were listening to the song of one of their comrades, 
a man from the south, who was singing of the quiet 
waters of the Don, and of a Cossack who had come 
back to his native land after many days and found 
his true love wedded to another. I felt it was the 
flute of Chang Liang which had prompted the 
southerner to sing, and without doubt the men saw 
before them the great moon shining over the broad 
village street in the dark July and August nights, 



THE FLUTE OF CHANG LIANG 53 

and heard the noise of dancing and song and the 
cheerful rhythmic accompaniment of the concertina. 
Or (if they came from the south) they saw the 
smiling thatched farms, whitewashed, or painted 
in light green distemper, with vines growing on 
their walls ; or again, they felt the smell of the 
beanfields in June, and saw in their minds' eye 
the panorama of the melting snows, when at a 
fairy touch the long winter is defeated, the meadows 
are flooded, and the trees seem to float about in 
the shining water like shapes invoked by a wizard. 
They saw these things and yearned towards them 
with all their hearts, here in this uncouth country 
where they were to fight a strange people for some 
unaccountable reason. But Chang Liang had 
played his flute to them in vain. It was in vain 
that he had tried to lure them back to their homes, 
and in vain that he had melted their hearts with 
the memories of their childhood. For the battle 
began at dawn the next morning, and when the 
enemy attacked they found an army there to meet 
them ; and the battle lasted for two days on this 
very spot ; and many of the men to whom Chang 
Liang had brought back through his flute the 
sights and the sounds of their childhood, were 
fated never to hear again those familiar sounds, 
nor to see the land and the faces which they 
loved. 



VI 
"WHAT IS TRUTH? 



To E. I. Huber 



55 



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

The large lady was going to the country. She 
and her daughter had been ordered to go there 
by the doctor. She had spent six weeks in Moscow 
under medical treatment, and they had now been 
told to finish this cure with a thorough rest in the 
country air. The thin lady asked her the name 

67 



58 " WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 

of her doctor, and before ascertaining what was 
the disease in question, recommended another 
doctor who had cured a friend of hers, almost as 
though oy miracle, of heart disease. The large 
lady seemed interested and wrote down the direc- 
tion of the marvellous physician. She was herself 
suffering, she said, from a nervous illness, and her 
daughter had St Vitus' dance. They were so far 
quite satisfied with their doctor. They talked for 
some time exclusively about medical matters, 
comparing notes about doctors, diseases, and 
remedies. The thin lady said she had been cured 
of all her ills by aspirin and cinnamon. 

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

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

" My husband is a Conservative ; they call him 
a ' Black Hundred/ but it's most unfair and un- 
true, because he is a very good man and very just. 
He has his own opinions and he is sincere. He 
does not believe in the revolution or in the re- 



" WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 59 

volutionaries. He took the oath to serve the 
Emperor when everything went quietly and well, 
and now, although I have often begged him to 
leave the Service, he says it would be very wrong 
to leave just because it is dangerous. ' I have 
taken the oath,' he says, ' and I must keep it.' " 

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



60 " WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 

must be a big idea which moves all these people to 
give up everything, to go to prison, to kill, and be 
killed. I understood this for the first time at that 
funeral. I cried when the crowd went past. I 
understood there was a big idea, a great cause 
behind it all. Then I went home. 

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

" What did your husband think ? " asked the 
thin lady. 

" My husband did not like to talk about these 



" WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 61 

things," she answered. " He says, ' I am in the 
Service, and I have tc serve. It is not my business 
to have opinions.' " 

" But all those Republics didn't last very long," 
rejoined the thin lady. 

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

" ' You know who I am,' I said, ' since I am here, 
and I am admitted inside these locked doors ? ' 
He nodded. Then I asked him whether I could be 
of any use to him. He said that he had all that he 
wanted ; and like this the ice was broken, and I 



62 " WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 

asked him presently if he believed in the whole 
movement. He said that until the 17th of October, 
when the Manifesto had been issued, he had be- 
lieved with all his soul in it ; but the events of the 
last months had caused him to change his mind. 
He now thought that the work of his party, and, in 
fact, the whole movement, which had been going 
on for over fifty years, had really been in vain. 
' We shall have/ he said, ' to begin again from the 
very beginning, because the Russian people are 
not ready for us yet, and probably another fifty 
years will have to go by before they are ready.' 

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

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

The whole conversation, of which I have given 



" WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 63 

a very condensed report, was spread over a long 
time, and often interrupted. Later they reached 
the subject of political assassination, and the large 
lady said : 

u About two months after I came home that 
year, one day when I was out driving with my 
daughter in a sledge the revolutionaries fired six 
shots at us from revolvers. We were not hit, but 
one bullet went through the coachman's cap. 
Ever since then I have had nervous fits and my 
daughter has had St Vitus' dance. We have to 
go to Moscow every year to be treated. And it 
is so difficult. I don't know how to manage. 
When I am at home I feel as if I ought to go, and 
when I am away I never have a moment's peace, 
because I cannot help thinking the whole time 
that my husband is in danger. A few weeks after 
they shot at us I met some of the revolutionary 
party at a meeting, and I asked them why they 
had shot at myself and my daughter. I could 
have understood it if they had shot at my husband. 
But why at us ? He said : ' When the wood is 
cut down, the chips fly about.' 1 And now I don't 
know what to think about it all. 

" Sometimes I think it is all a mistake, and 
I feel that the revolutionaries are posing and 
playing a part, and that so soon as they get the 
upper hand they will be as bad as what we have 

1 A Russian proverb. 



64 " WHAT IS TRUTH ? " 

now ; and then I say to myself, all the same 
they are acting in a cause, and it is a great 
cause, and they are working for liberty and 
for the people. And, then, would the people be 
better off if they had their way ? The more I 
think of it the more puzzled I am. Who is right ? 
Is my husband right ? Are they right ? Is it a 
great cause ? How can they be wrong if they are 
imprisoned and killed for what they believe ? 
Where is the truth, and what is truth ? " 



VII 
A LUNCHEON-PARTY 



65 



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

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

One evening towards the end of June, as she 
was sitting in her lovely drawing-room in her 

67 



68 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

house in Mayfair, in front of her tea-table, on which 
the tea stood untasted, brooding over the question 
which unceasingly tormented her, she cried out, 
half aloud : 

"I'd sell my soul to the devil if he would give 
me what I wish." 

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

" What is his name ? " asked Mrs Bergmann. 

The footman said he had not caught the gentle- 
man's name, and he handed her a card on a 
tray. 

She took the card. On it was written : 

Mr Nicholas L. Satan, 

I, Pandemonium Terrace, 
Burning Marle, Hell. 

Telephone, No. i Central. 

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

Mr Satan was shown in. He had a professional 
air about him, but not of the kind that suggests 
needy or even learned professionalism. He was 
dark ; his features were sharp and regular, his eyes 
keen, his complexion pale, his mouth vigorous, and 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 69 

his chin prominent. He was well dressed in a frock 
coat, black tie, and patent leather boots. He would 
never have been taken for a conjurer or a shop- 
walker, but he might have been taken for a slightly 
depraved Art-photographer who had known better 
days. He sat down near the tea-table opposite Mrs 
Bergmann, holding his top hat, which had a slight 
mourning band round it, in his hand. 

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

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

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

" Oh ! no," answered Mrs Bergmann with 
decision, " they would ruin any luncheon." 

" A Saint ? " suggested Mr Satan, " Antony, 
Ditto of Padua, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm ? " 

" Good heavens, no," said Mrs Bergmann. 



70 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

" A Theologian, good arguer ? " asked Mr Satan, 
" Aquinas, T ? " 

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

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

" I don't want a clergyman," said Mrs Bergmann. 

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

"You're going back to the A's," interrupted 
Mrs Bergmann. 

" Bellini, Benvenuto Cellini, Botticelli ? " he 
continued imperturbably. 

" What's the use of them when I can get Sargent 
every day ? " asked Mrs Bergmann. 

" A man of action, perhaps ? Alexander, Bona- 
parte, Caesar, J., Cromwell, O., Hannibal? " 

" Too heavy for luncheon," she answered, 
" they would do for dinner." 

" Plain statesman ? Bismarck, Count ; Chat- 
ham, Lord ; Franklin, B. ; Richelieu, Cardinal." 

" That would make the members of the Cabinet 
feel uncomfortable," she said. 

M A Monarch ? Alfred ; beg pardon, he's an 
A. Richard III., Peter the Great, Louis XL, 
Nero ? " 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 71 

" No," said Mrs Bergmann. " I can't have a 
Royalty. It would make it too stiff." 

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

" Oh ! no," said Mrs Bergmann, '* they might 
steal the Sevres." 

" A musician ? Bach or Beethoven ? " he sug- 
gested. 

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

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

" We should probably find their jokes dull now," 
said Mrs Bergmann, thoughtfully. 

" Miscellaneous ? " inquired Mr Satan, and, 
turning over several leaves of his notebook, he 
rattled out the following names : " Alcibiades, 
kind of statesman ; Beau Brummel, fop ; Cagli- 
ostro, conjurer ; Robespierre, politician ; Charles 
Stuart, Pretender ; Warwick, King-maker ; Borgia, 
A., Pope ; Ditto, C, toxicologist ; Wallenstein, 
mercenary ; Bacon, Roger, man of science ; Ditto, 
F., dishonest official ; Tell, W., patriot ; Jones, 
Paul, pirate ; Lucullus, glutton ; Simon Stylites, 
eccentric ; Casanova, loose liver ; Casabianca, 



72 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

cabin-boy ; Chicot, jester ; Sayers, T., prize- 
fighter ; Cook, Captain, tourist ; Nebuchadnezzar, 
food-faddist ; Juan, D., lover ; Froissart, war 
correspondent ; Julian, apostate ? " 

" Don't you see," said Mrs Bergmann, " we 
must have some one everybody has heard of ? " 

" David Garrick, actor and wit ? " suggested 
Mr Satan. 

" It's no good having an actor nobody has seen 
act," said Mrs Bergmann. 

" What about a poet ? " asked Mr Satan, 
" Homer, Virgil, Dante, Byron, Shakespeare ? " 

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

u Certainly," said Mr Satan, " day and date ? " 

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

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

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

" I cannot consent to such terms," she said. 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 73 

11 Surely you recognise the fundamental difference 
between this proposed contract and those which you 
concluded with others with Faust, for instance ? 
They sold the full control of their soul after death 
on condition of your putting yourself at their 
entire disposal during the whole of their lifetime, 
whereas you ask me to do the same thing in return 
for a few hours' service. The proposal is pre- 
posterous." 

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

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

11 Ten million," said Mr Satan, quietly but firmly. 

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

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

" Of course," said Mrs Bergmann with equal 
dignity. 

" Then perhaps you will not mind signing the 



74 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

contract at once," said Mr Satan, drawing from 
his pocket a type- written page. 

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

" Over the stamp, please," said Mr Satan. 

" Must I er sign it in blood ? " asked Mrs 
Bergmann, hesitatingly. 

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

He handed her a stylograph pen. 

" Must it be witnessed ? " she asked. 

" No," he replied, " these kind of documents 
don't need a witness." 

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

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

" One-thirty," said Mrs Bergmann. 

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

Mrs Bergmann chuckled to herself when she was 
alone. " I have done him," she thought to herself, 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 75 

" because ten million years in eternity is nothing. 
He might just as well have said one second as ten 
million years, since anything less than eternity in 
eternity is nothing. It is curious how stupid the 
devil is in spite of all his experience. Now I 
must think about my invitations." 



II 

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

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

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

" His name is " and at that moment the 

telephone communication was interrupted, and in 
spite of desperate efforts Mrs Bergmann was un- 
able to get on to Mrs Lockton again. She reflected 



76 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

that it was quite useless for her to send a message 
saying that she had no room at her table, because 
Angela Lockton would probably bring the stranger 
all the same. Then she further reflected that in 
the excitement caused by the presence of Shake- 
speare it would not really much matter whether 
there was a stranger there or not. A little before 
half -past one the guests began to arrive. Lord 
Pantry of Assouan, the famous soldier, was the 
first comer. He was soon followed by Professor 
Morgan, an authority on Greek literature ; Mr 
Peebles, the ex-Prime Minister ; Mrs Hubert 
Baldwin, the immensely popular novelist ; the 
fascinating Mrs Rupert Duncan, who was lending 
her genius to one of Ibsen's heroines at that moment; 
Miss Medea Tring, one of the latest American 
beauties ; Corporal, the portrait -painter ; Richard 
Giles, critic and man of letters ; Here ward Blen- 
heim, a young and rising politician, who before the 
age of thirty had already risen higher than most 
men of sixty ; Sir Horace Silvester, K.C.M.G., the 
brilliant financier, with his beautiful wife Lady 
Irene ; Professor Leo Newcastle, the eminent man 
of science ; Lady Hyacinth Gloucester, and Mrs 
Milden, who were well known for their beauty and 
charm ; Osmond Hall, the paradoxical playwright ; 
Monsieur Faubourg, the psychological novelist; 
Count Sciarra, an Italian nobleman, about fifty 
years old, who had written a history of the Popes, 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY jj 

and who was now staying in London ; Lady 
Herman, the beauty of a former generation, still 
extremely handsome ; and Willmott, the success- 
ful actor-manager. They were all assembled in 
the drawing-room upstairs, talking in knots and 
groups, and pervaded by a feeling of pleasurable 
excitement and expectation, so much so that con- 
versation was intermittent, and nearly everybody 
was talking about the weather. The Right Hon. 
John Lockton, the eminent lawyer, was the last 
guest to arrive. 

" Angela will be here in a moment," he ex- 
plained ; " she asked me to come on first." 

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

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

" I'm so sorry to be so late, Louise dear," she said. 

" Let me introduce Mr to you." And whether 

she had forgotten the name or not, Mrs Bergmann 
did not know or care at the time, but it was mum- 



78 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

bled in such a manner that it was impossible to 
catch it. Mrs Bergmann shook hands with him 
absent-mindedly, and, looking at the clock, saw that 
it was ten minutes to two. 

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

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

The luncheon started haltingly. Angela Lock- 
ton's friend was heard saying in a clear voice that 
the dust in London was very trying. 

" Have you come from the country ? " asked 
M. Faubourg. " I myself am just returned from 
Oxford, where I once more admired your admirable 
English lawns vos pelouses seculaires." 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 79 

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

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

" Mrs Milden/' he went on, " has the smile of 
La Gioconda, and hands and hair for Leonardo to 
paint. Lady Gloucester," he continued, leaving 
out the Christian name, " is English, like one of 
Shakespeare's women, Desdemona or Imogen ; 
and Lady Irene has no nationality, she belongs to 
the dream worlds of Shelley and D'Annunzio : 
she is the guardian Lady of Shelley's ' Sensitiva,' 
the vision of the lily. 

' Quale un vaso liturgico d'argento.' 

And you, madame, you take away all my sense of 
criticism. ' Vous me troublez trop pour que je 
d6finisse votre genre de beauteV " 

Mrs Milden was soon engaged in a deep tete-a- 
tte with Mr Peebles, who was heard every now and 
then to say, " Quite, quite." Miss Tring was 
holding forth to Silvester on French sculpture, and 
Silvester now and again said : " Oh ! really ! " 
in the tone of intense interest which his friends 



80 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

knew indicated that he was being acutely bored. 
Lady Hyacinth was discussing Socialism with 
Osmond Hall, Lady Herman was discussing the 
theory of evolution with Professor Newcastle, 
Mrs Lockton, the question of the French Church, 
with Faubourg ; and Blenheim was discharging 
molten fragments of embryo exordiums and perora- 
tions on the subject of the stage to Willmott ; in 
fact, there was a general buzz of conversation. 

" Have you been to see Antony and Cleopatra ? " 
asked Willmott of the stranger. 

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

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

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

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

" No doubt, no doubt," said the stranger. 

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

" There are no young novelists worth mention- 
ing," answered M. Faubourg. 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 81 

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

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

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

Count Sciarra was engaged in a third monologue 
at the head of the table. He was talking at the 
same time to Mrs Bergmann, Lady Irene, and Lady 
Hyacinth about the devil. " Ah que j'aime le 

F 



82 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

diable I " he was saying in low, tender tones. 
" The devil who creates your beauty to lure us to 
destruction, the devil who puts honey into the voice 
of the siren, the dolce sirena 

" Che i marinari in mezzo il mar dismaga " 

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

" Life outside the garden of Eden has many 
drawbacks," said Mrs Bergmann, who, although 
she was inwardly pleased by Count Sciarra's re- 
marks, saw by Lady Irene's expression that she 
thought he was mad. 

" Aucun f drawback,' M answered Sciarra, 
u n'egalerait celui de contempler les divins contours 
feminins sans un frisson. Pensez done si Madame 
Bergmann " 

" Count Sciarra," interrupted Mrs Bergmann, 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 83 

terrified of what was coming next, " do tell me 
about the book you are writing on Venice." 

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

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

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

" Yes," answered the stranger ; "it gets worse 
every year, doesn't it ? " 

But Mr Corporal's pictures are always worth 
seeing," said Faubourg. 

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

At this moment the attention of the whole table 
was monopolised by Osmond Hall, who began to 
discuss the scenario of a new play he was writing. 
" My play," he began, " is going to be called ' The 
King of the North Pole.' I have never been to the 
North Pole, and I don't mean to go there. It's not 
necessary to have first-hand knowledge of technical 



84 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

subjects in order to write a play. People say that 
Shakespeare must have studied the law, because his 
allusions to the law are frequent and accurate. 
That does not prove that he knew law any more 
than the fact that he put a sea in Bohemia proves 
that he did not know geography. It proves he was 
a dramatist. He wanted a sea in Bohemia. He 
wanted lawyer's ' shop.' I should do just the same 
thing myself. I wrote a play about doctors, know- 
ing nothing about medicine : I asked a friend to give 
me the necessary information. Shakespeare, I 
expect, asked his friends to give him the legal 
information he required.' ' 

Every allusion to Shakespeare was a stab to 
Mrs Bergmann. 

Shakespeare's knowledge of the law is very 
thorough," broke in Lockton. 

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

N Shakespeare knew law by intuition," mur- 
mured Willmott, " but he did not guess what the 
modern stage would make of his plays." 

* Let us hope not," said Giles. 

" Shakespeare," said Faubourg, " was a psycho- 
logy ; he had the power, I cannot say it in English, 
de deviner ce qu'il ne savait pas en puisant dans le 
fond et le trefond de son ame." 

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



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 85 

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

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

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

M Shakespeare evidently didn't trouble his 
friends for information on natural history," said 
Professor Newcastle ; "his remarks on the cuckoo 
and the bee are ridiculous." 

" Ridiculous for a writer on natural history, not 
for a playwright," said Hall. " I myself should 
not mind what liberty I took with the cuckoo, the 
bee, or even the basilisk. I should not trouble 
ycu for accurate information on the subject ; I 
should not even mind saying the cuckoo lays 
eggs in its own nest if it suited the dramatic 
situation." 

The whole of this conversation was torture to Mrs 
Bergmann. 

" Shakespeare," said Lady Hyacinth, u had a 
universal nature ; one can't help thinking he was 
almost like God." 



86 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

" That's what people will say of me a hundred 
years hence/' said Hall ; " only it is to be hoped 
they'll leave out the ' almost.' " 

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

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

" I think Desdemona is the most pathetic of 
Shakespeare's heroines," said Lady Hyacinth ; 
" don't you think so, Mr Hall ? " 

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

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



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 87 

" If Shakespeare had lived now he would have 
written novels," said Faubourg. 

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

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

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

" Perhaps," said the stranger, hesitatingly and 
modestly, " he had made enough money by writing 
plays to retire on his earnings^ and live in the 
country." 

Nobody took any notice of this remark. 

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

" If Bacon had written Shakespeare's plays," 
said Silvester, " they wouldn't have been so bad." 

" There seems to me to be only one argument," 
said Professor Morgan, " in favour of the Bacon 
theory, and that -is that the range of mind dis- 
played in Shakespeare's plays is so great that it 



88 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

would have been child's play for the man who 
wrote Shakespeare's plays to have written the works 
of Bacon." 

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

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

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

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

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

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



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 89 

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

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

" Shakespeare," began Blenheim ; but he was 
interrupted by Mrs Duncan who cried out : 

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

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

M Ah ! you've got Sarah," said Mrs Duncan, 
" you don't want anyone else." 

" I think Racine's boring," said Mrs Lockton, 
" he's so artificial." 

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



90 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

" I like Rostand better/' said Mrs Lockton. 

" Rostand ! " exclaimed Miss Tring, in disgust, 
" he writes such bad verses du caoutchouc he's 
so vulgar." 

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

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

" I confess," said Peebles, " that I cannot ap- 
preciate French poetry. I can read Rousseau 
with pleasure, and Bossuet ; but I cannot admire 
Corneille and Racine." 

" Everybody writes plays now," said Faubourg, 
with a sigh. 

M I have never written a play," said Lord Pantry. 

" Nor I," said Lockton. 

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

" Yes," answered the stranger, " I once wrote a 
play called ' Hamlet.' " 

" You were courageous with such an original 
before you," said Faubourg, severely. 



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 91 

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

" Encore un faiseur de paradoxes ! " murmured 
Faubourg to himself in disgust. 

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

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

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



92 A LUNCHEON-PARTY 

" No/' he answered, " I came for the Horse 
Show at Olympia." 

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

" J'ai vu chez vous," he said, "le lys argente et 
la rose blanche, mais vous etes la rose ecarlate, la 
rose d'amour dont le parfum vivra dans mon 
cceur comme un poison dore (and here he hummed 
in a sing-song) : ' Io son, cantava, Io son, dolce 
sirena' Addio, dolce sirena." 

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

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

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



A LUNCHEON-PARTY 93 

Angela Lockton stayed a moment. 

" Who were you expecting, Louise, dear ? " 
she asked. 

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

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

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

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



VIII 
FETE GALANTE 



To Cecilia Fisher 



" HP HE King said that nobody had ever danced 

A as I danced to-night/' said Columbine. 

" He said it was more than dancing, it was magic." 

" It is true/' said Harlequin, " you never danced 
like that before." 

But Pierrot paid no heed to their remarks, and 
stared vacantly at the sky. They were sitting on 
the deserted stage of the grass amphitheatre 
where they had been playing. Behind them were 
the clumps of cypress trees which framed a vista 
of endless wooden garden and formed their drop 
scene. They were sitting immediately beneath 
the wooden framework made of two upright beams 
and one horizontal, which formed the primitive 
proscenium, and from which little coloured lights 
had hung during the performance. The King and 
Queen and their lords and ladies who had looked 
on at the living puppet show had all left the 
amphitheatre ; they had put on their masks and 
their dominoes, and were now dancing on the 
lawns, whispering in the alleys and the avenues, 
or sitting in groups under the tall dark trees. Some 
of them were in boats on the lake, and everywhere 
one went, from the dark boscages, came sounds of 
music, thin, tinkling tunes played on guitars by 
g 7 



98 FETE GALANTE 

skilled hands, and the bird-like twittering and 
whistling of flageolets. 

" The King said I looked like a moon fairy," 
said Columbine to Pierrot. Pierrot only stared 
at the sky and laughed inanely. " If you persist 
in slighting me like this," she whispered in his ear, 
in a whisper which was like a hiss, " I will abandon 
you for ever. I will give my heart to Harlequin, 
and you shall never see me again." But Pierrot 
continued to stare at the sky, and laughed once 
more inanely. Then Columbine got up, her eyes 
flashing with rage ; taking Harlequin by the arm 
she dragged him swiftly away. They danced 
across the grass semi-circle of the amphitheatre 
and up the steps away into the alleys. Pierrot 
was left alone with Pantaloon, who was asleep, 
for he was old and clowning fatigued him. Then 
Pierrot left the amphitheatre also, and putting a 
black mask on his face he joined the revellers who 
were everywhere dancing, whispering, talking, and 
making music in subdued tones. He sought out 
a long lonely avenue, in one side of which there 
nestled, almost entirely concealed by bushes and 
undergrowth, a round open Greek temple. Right 
at the end of the avenue a foaming waterfall 
splashed down into a large marble basin, from which 
a tall fountain rose, white and ghostly, and made 
a sobbing noise. Pierrot went towards the temple, 
then he turned back and walked right into the 



FETE GALANTE 99 

undergrowth through the bushes, and lay down 
on the grass, and listened to the singing of the 
night -jar. The whole garden that night seemed 
to be sighing and whispering ; there was a soft 
warm wind, and a smell of mown hay in the air, 
and an intoxicating sweetness came from the 
bushes of syringa. Columbine and Harlequin 
also joined the revellers. They passed from group 
to group, with aimless curiosity, pausing some- 
times by the artificial ponds and sometimes by 
the dainty groups of dancers, whose satin and 
whose pearls glimmered faintly in the shifting 
moonlight, for the night was cloudy. At last 
they too were tired of the revel, they wandered 
towards a more secluded place and made for the 
avenue which Pierrot had sought. On their way they 
passed through a narrow grass walk between two 
rows of closely cropped yew hedges. There on a 
marble seat a tall man in a black domino was 
sitting, his head resting on his hands ; and between 
the loose folds of his satin cloak, one caught the 
glint of precious stones. When they had passed him 
Columbine whispered to Harlequin : " That is 
the King. I caught sight of his jewelled collar.' ' 
They presently found themselves in the long 
avenue at the end of which were the waterfall and 
the fountain. They wandered on till they reached 
the Greek temple, and there suddenly Columbine 
put her finger on her lips. Then she led Harlequin 



ioo FETE GALANTE 

back a little way and took him round through the 
undergrowth to the back of the temple, and, crouch- 
ing down in the bushes, bade him look. In the 
middle of the temple there was a statue of Eros 
holding a torch in his hands. Standing close 
beside the statue were two figures, a man dressed 
as a Pierrot, and a beautiful lady who wore a grey 
satin domino. She had taken off her mask and 
pushed back the hood from her hair, which was 
encircled by a diadem made of something shining 
and silvery, and a ray of moonlight fell on her face, 
which was as delicate as the petal of a flower. 
Pierrot was masked ; he was holding her hand 
and looking into her eyes, which were turned 
upwards towards his. 

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

In the temple the Queen was upbraiding her lover 
for his temerity in having crossed the frontier into 
the land from which he had been banished for ever, 
and for having dared to appear at the court revel 
disguised as Pierrot. " Remember/' she was 



FETE GALANTE 101 

saying, " the enemies that surround us, the dreadful 
peril, and the doom that awaits us." And her lover 
said : " What is doom, and what is death ? You 
whispered to the night and I heard. You sighed 
and I am here I " He tore the mask from his face, 
and the Queen looked at him and smiled. At that 
moment a rustle was heard in the undergrowth, 
and the Queen started back from him, whispering : 
" We are betrayed ! Fly ! " And her lover put 
on his mask and darted through the undergrowth, 
following a path which he and no one else; know; ; : 
till he came to an open space where his squire 
awaited him with horses, and they galloped away 
safe from all pursuit. 

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



102 FETE GALANTE 

without her knowing it, and concealed himself 
behind the door, which he set ajar. 

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

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

5? Yqu Iqvc the Queen nevertheless," said Colum- 
bine, M of that I am sure, and for that I have had 
my revenge." 

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

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

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

" It was a joke," said Pierrot, and he laughed. 
Then the King grew fierce and stormed and 
threatened. But his rage and threats were in vain ! 
for Pierrot only laughed. Then the King appealed 
to him as man to man and implored him to tell him 
the truth ; for he would have given his kingdom 



FETE GALANTE 103 

to believe that it was the real Pierrot who had met 
the Queen and that the adventure had been a joke. 
Pierrot only repeated what he had said, and laughed 
and giggled inanely. 

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



IX 
THE GARLAND 



105 



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

The three clerks and their two scribes occupied 
a high marble room in the spacious office. It was 
as yet early in April, but, nevertheless, the sun out 
of doors was almost fierce. The high marble rooms 
of the office were cool and stuffy at the same time, 
and the spring sunshine without, the soft breeze 
from the sea, the call of the flower-sellers in 
the street, and the lazy murmur of the town had, 
in these shaded, musty, and parchment-smelling 
halls, diffused an atmosphere of laziness which 
inspired the clerks in question with an overwhelm- 
ing desire to do nothing. 

There was, indeed, no pressing work on hand. 
Only from time to time the Refer endarius, who 
occupied a room to himself next door to theirs, 
would communicate with them through a hole in 
the wall, demanding information on some point 



107 



io8 THE GARLAND 

or asking to be supplied with certain documents. 
Then the clerks would make a momentary pretence 
of being busy, and ultimately the scribes would find 
either the documents or the information which 
were required. 

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

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

" Phocas is going to win," he said. " It is 
certain." 

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

Theophilus and Rufinus paid no attention to the 
remark. 



THE GARLAND 109 

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

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

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

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

" May I go to the races ? " asked Rufinus. 

" Well," said the high official, " what about your 
work ? " 

" We've finished everything," said the clerk. 

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

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



no THE GARLAND 

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

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

The clerk did not press the point further. 

" You'd better get on with that index," said the 
high official as Rufinus withdrew. 

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

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



THE GARLAND in 

the Hippodrome. He saw the Emperor in his high- 
pillared box, on his circular throne of dull gold, 
surrounded by slaves fanning him with jewel- 
coloured plumes, and fenced round with golden 
swords. 

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

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



ii2 THE GARLAND 

great hymn of praise was rising to her and to her 
alone ; and that men had come from the utter- 
most parts of the earth to pay homage to her, to 
sing her praise, to kneel to her to her, the wondrous, 
the very beautiful : peerless, radiant, perfect. 

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

" Rufinus, the Chief is calling you," said 
Cephalus. 

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

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

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

" Will you sell me your flowers ? " he asked, and 
he held out a silver coin. 

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

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



THE GARLAND 113 

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

7re/>t7rw (toi, ( VoSoK\eia, roSe <7re0o?. 

The sense of it was something like this : 

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

Here's the lily, here the rose 
Her full chalice shall disclose ; 
Here's narcissus wet with dew, 
Windflower and the violet blue. 
Wear the garland I have made ; 
Crowned with it, put pride away ; 
For the wreath that blooms must fade ; 
Thou thyself must fade some day, 
Rhodocleia. 1 



1 For a beautiful translation of this epigram, which is also an 
exquisite English lyric, see Mr Andrew Lang's " Ban et Arriere- 
Ban," under the title "Golden Eyes." 



X 

THE SPIDER'S WEB 



To K. L. 



115 



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

His eye fell upon some papers which were lying 
loose upon -his table. There was an unfinished 
sonnet which he had begun three days ago. The 
octet was finished and the first two lines of the 
sestet. He would never finish it now. It had 
no longer any reason to be ; for it was a cry to 

117 



u8 THE SPIDER'S WEB 

ears which were now deaf, a question, an appeal, 
which demanded an answering smile, a consenting 
echo ; and the lips, the only lips which could frame 
that answer, were dumb. He remembered that 
Casella, the musician, had asked him a week ago 
for the text of a canzone which he had repeated to 
him one day. He had promised to let him have it. 
The promise had entirely gone out of his mind. 
Then he reflected that because the ship of his hopes 
and dreams had been wrecked there was no reason 
why he should neglect his obligations to his fellow- 
travellers on the uncertain sea. 

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

V 

Levius fit patientia 
Quidquid corrigere est nefas. 

As the words occurred to him he thought how 
much better equipped he was for the bitter trial, 



THE SPIDER'S WEB 119 

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

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

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

He felt a desire to escape from his room, which 
had been the chapel of such holy prayers, the 
shrine where so many fervent tapers of hope had 
burnt, where so sweet an incense of dream had 
risen. He left his room and hurried down the 
narrow stone stairs into the street. As he left 



120 THE SPIDER'S WEB 

the house he turned to his right and walked on till 
he reached Or San Michele ; there he turned to his 
right again and walked straight on till he reached the 
churches of Santa Reparata and San Giovanni. He 
entered San Giovanni and said a brief prayer ; then 
he took the nearest street, east of Santa Reparata, 
to the Porta a ballo, and found himself beyond 
the walls of the city. He walked towards Fiesole. 

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

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

Manibus date lilia plenis . . . 
His saltern accumulem donis et fungar inani 
Munere. 



THE SPIDER'S WEB 121 

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

He had reached a narrow lane at the foot of a 
steep hill covered with corn and dotted with olives. 
He lay down under a hedge in the shade. The 
sun was shining on two large bramble bushes which 
grew on the hedge opposite him. Above him, on 
his right, was a tall cypress tree standing by itself, 



122 THE SPIDER'S WEB 

and the corn plots stretched up behind him till 
they reached the rocky summits tufted with firs. 
Between the two bramble bushes a spider had 
spun a large web, and he was sitting in the midst 
of it awaiting his prey. But the bramble and the 
web were still wet with the morning dew, whose 
little drops glistened in the sunshine like diamonds. 
Every tiny thread and filament of the web was 
dewy and lit by the newly-awakened sun. He 
lay on his back in the shade and pondered on the 
shape and nature of his gift of song, and on the 
deathless flowers that he must grow and gather 
and lay upon her tomb. 

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

He looked and looked, his whole spirit rilled 
with ineffable awe and breathless humility. He 
lay gazing on the chance miracle of nature till a 



THE SPIDER'S WEB 123 

passing cloud obscured the sun, and the spider's 
web wore once more its ordinary appearance. 
Then he arose with tears in his eyes and gave a 
great sigh of thankfulness. 

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

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



XI 

EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY 
CASTLE 

BY AN EYE-WITNESS 
( With apologies to Mr H. Belloc) 



126 



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

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

But the King, to whom these memories were 

127 



128 EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE 

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

Enormous through the morning the tall battalions run : 
The men who fought with Charlemagne are very nearly done ; 
The wine is dark beneath the night, the stars are in the sky, 
The hammer's in the blacksmith's hand in case he wants to 

try. 
We'll ride to Fontarabia, we'll storm the stubborn wall, 
And I call. 

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

And I brag ! 

The King listlessly opened his eyes and said that 
he had no stomach for such song, and from the 
next door came the mutter of the drums. For on 
that night which was Candlemas Thursday, or as 
we should now call it " Friday " the gaolers were 
keeping holiday, and drinking English beer brewed 
in Sussex ; for the beer of West England was not 
to their liking, as any one who has walked down 
the old Roman Road through Daglingworth, 



EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE 129 

Brimpsfield, and Birdlip towards Cardigan on a 
warm summer's day can know. For a man may 
tramp that road and stop and ask for drink at an 
inn, and receive nothing but Imperialist whisky, 
and drinks that annoy rather than satisfy the 
great thirst of a Christian. 

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

The captains came from Normandy 
In clamorous ships across the sea ; 
And from the trees in Gascony 
The masts were cloven, tall and free. 
And Turpin swung the helm and sang ; 
i 



130 EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE 

And stars like all the bells at Brie 
From cloudy steeples rang. 

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

He sings of battles and of wine, 

Of boats that leap the bellowing brine, 

Of April eyes that smile and shine, 

Of Raymond and Lord Catiline 

And Carthage by the sea, 

Of saints, and of the Muses Nine 

That dwell in Gascony. 

And to the King, as he heard this stave, came 
visions of his youth ; of how he had galloped from 
Woodstock to Stonesfield on a night of June with- 
in eleven hours, with a company of minstrels, and 
of how during that long feast at Arundel he made 
a song in the vernacular in praise of St Anselm. 
And he remembered that he owed a candle to that 
saint. For he had vowed that if the wife of Wester- 
main should meet him after the tournament he 
would burn a tall candle at Canterbury before 
Michaelmas. But this had escaped his mind, for 
it had been tossed hither and thither during days of 



EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE 131 

conflict which had come later, and he was not loth 
to believe that the neglect of this service and the 
idle vow had been corner-stone of his misfortunes, 
and had helped to bring about his miserable plight. 
While these threads of memory glimmered in 
his mind the small tallow rush-light which lit the 
dungeon flickered and went out. The chapel 
clock struck six. The King made a gesture which 
meant that the time of music was over, and Eustace 
went back to the canteen, where the men of the 
guard were playing at dice by the light of smoky 
rush-lights. The King lay down on his wooden 
pallet, whose linen was delicate and of lawn, em- 
broidered with his own cipher and crown. The 
pillow, which was stuffed with scented rushes, 
was delicious to the cheek, and yielding. 

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



132 EDWARD II. AT BERKELEY CASTLE 

but Saxony was heedless and unmoved. And 
Piers Gaveston spoke heated words in vain. 

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

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

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



XII 
THE ISLAND 



133 



PERHAPS we had better not land after all," 
said Lewis as he was stepping into the boat ; 
" we can explore this island on our way home/' 

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

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

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

M Perhaps we shall stay the night," responded 
Stewart. 

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

" The island is volcanic," said Stewart. 

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

135 



136 THE ISLAND 

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

" I don't think it can be inhabited," said Lewis. 

" Perhaps it's merely a volcanic island cast up by 
a sea disturbance," suggested Stewart. 

u Look at those trees," said Lewis, pointing to 
the wood in the distance. 

" What about them ? " asked Stewart. 

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

Stewart laughed. u I think it was a good 
thing to land," he said. " Let's go on now." 

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



THE ISLAND 137 

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

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

M No birds," remarked Lewis, gloomily. 

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

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

u Yes," said Stewart, " I think they are mouflon, 
but I don't think the island is inhabited all the 
same." No sooner were the words out of his 



138 THE ISLAND 

mouth than he started, and rising to his feet, 
cried : " Look there ! " and he pointed to a thin 
wreath of smoke which was rising from the wood. 
Their languor seemed to leave them, and they ran 
down the hill and reached the wood once more. 
Just as they were about to enter it Lewis stooped 
and pointed to a small plant with white flowers 
and three oval-shaped leaves rising from the root. 

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

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

" There's no bulb," he said. " Look ! only 
a black root." 

Stewart examined the plant. " I can't make 
it out," he said. 

Lewis wrapped the plant in his handkerchief and 
put it in his pocket. They entered the wood. 
The air was still more sultry here than outside, 



THE ISLAND 139 

and the stillness even more oppressive. There 
were no birds and not a vestige of bird life. 

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

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

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

" It's rather like an Egyptian tomb," said 
Stewart, and he shivered. The hall led into a 



140 THE ISLAND 

further room, which was open in the centre to the 
sky, like the impluvium of a Roman house. It also 
contained a square basin of water, which was filled 
by water bubbling from a lion's mouth carved in 
stone. Beyond the impluvium there were two 
smaller rooms, in one of which there was a kind 
of raised stone platform. The house was com- 
pletely deserted and empty. Lewis and Stewart 
said little ; they examined the house in silent 
amazement. 

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

" It's like the wall paintings at Pompeii," he said. 

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

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

" We must go at once," said Lewis, " we'll come 
back here to-morrow." They walked on in silence. 
The wood was dim in the twilight, a fitful breeze 
made the trees rustle now and again, but the air 
was just as sultry as ever. The shapes of the 
trees seemed fantastic and almost threatening in 
the dimness, and the rustle of the leaves was like 



THE ISLAND 141 

a human moan. Once or twice they seemed to 
hear the grunting of pigs in the undergrowth and 
to catch sight of bristly backs. 

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

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

" We shan't get any food," Lewis said. 

" I'm not hungry," said Stewart, and Lewis knew 
that he could not have eaten anything to save his 
life. He felt utterly exhausted and yet not at all 
sleepy. Stewart, on the other hand, was overcome 
with drowsiness. He lay down on the mossy 
platform and fell asleep almost instantly. Lewis 
lit a pipe ; the vague forebodings he had felt in 
the morning had returned to him, only increased 
tenfold. He felt an unaccountable physical dis- 
comfort, an inexplicable sensation of uneasiness. 



142 THE ISLAND 

Then he realised what it was. He felt there was 
someone in the house besides themselves, someone 
or something that was always behind him, moving 
when he moved, and watching him. He walked 
into the impluvium, but heard nothing and saw 
nothing. There were none of the thousand little 
sounds, such as the barking of a dog, or the 
hoot of a night-bird, which generally complete 
the silence of a summer night. Everything was 
uncannily still. He returned to the room. He 
would have given anything to be back on the yacht, 
for besides the physical sensation of discomfort 
and of the something watching him he also felt 
the unmistakable feeling of impending danger 
that had been with him nearly all day. 

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

Something in Lewis prompted him to cry out 



THE ISLAND 143 

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

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

Then sending for the rest of the crew, Lewis 
organised a regular search over the whole island. 



144 THE ISLAND 

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

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

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



XIII 

THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD 

ADVICE 

To Henry Cust 



146 



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

The child who gave good advice went to school. 
There was a rage for stag beetles at the school ; 

147 



148 THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 

the boys painted them and made them run races 
on a chessboard. They imagined rightly or 
wrongly that some stag beetles were much faster 
than others. A little boy called Bell possessed 
the stag beetle which was the favourite for the 
coming races. Another boy called Mason was 
consumed with longing for this stag beetle ; and 
Bell had said he would give it him in exchange 
for Mason's catapult, which was famous in the 
school for the unique straightness of its two prongs. 
Mason went to the boy who gave good advice and 
asked him for his opinion. " Don't swap it for 
your catty," said the boy who gave good advice, 
" because Bell's stag beetle may not win after all ; 
and even if it does stag beetles won't be the rage 
for very long ; but a catty is always a catty, and 
yours is the best in the school." Mason took the 
advice. When the races came off, the stag beetles 
were so erratic that no prize was awarded, and they 
immediately ceased to be the rage. The rage for 
stag beetles was succeeded by a rage for secret 
alphabets. One boy invented a secret alphabet 
made of simple hieroglyphics, which was imparted 
only to a select few, who spent their spare time 
in corresponding with each other by these cryptic 
signs. The boy who gave good advice was not 
of those initiated into the mystery of the cypher, 
and he longed to be. He made several overtures, 
but they were all rejected, the reason being that 



THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 149 

boys of the second division could not let a " third 
division squit " into their secret. At last the boy 
who gave good advice offered to one of the initiated 
the whole of his stamp collection in return for the 
secret of the alphabet. This offer was accepted. 
The boy took the stamp collection, but the boy 
who gave good advice received in return not the 
true alphabet but a sham one especially manu- 
factured for him. This he found out later ; but 
recriminations were useless ; besides which the 
rage for secret alphabets soon died out and was 
replaced by a rage for aquariums, newts, and 
natterjack toads. 

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

" No, don't do that," said the boy who gave 
good advice, " because if you say you have cleaned 
them he will lick you twice as much for having 
cleaned them badly say you forgot." The advice 
was taken, and the fag-master merely said : " Don't 
forget again." A little later the fag-master had 
some friends to tea, and told the boy who gave 
good advice to boiljrim six eggs for not more than 



150 THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 

three minutes and a half. The boy who gave 
good advice, while they were on the fire, took part 
in a rag which was going on in the passage ; the 
result was that the eggs remained seven minutes 
in boiling water. They were hard. When the 
fag-master pointed this out and asked his fag what 
he meant by it, the boy who gave good advice per- 
sisted in his statement that they had been exactly 
three minutes and a half in the saucepan, and that 
he had timed them by his watch. So the fag- 
master caned him for telling lies. 

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

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

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

Crawley went to the Master of his college and 



THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 151 

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

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

When he left Oxford the man who gave good 
advice went into a Government office. He had 
not been in it long before he perceived that by 
certain simple reforms the work of the office could 
be done twice as effectually and half as expensively. 



152 THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 

He embodied these reforms in a memorandum and 
they were not long afterwards adopted. He be- 
came private secretary to Snipe, a rising politician, 
and persuaded him to change his party and his 
politics. Snipe, owing to this advice, became a 
Cabinet Minister, and the man who gave good 
advice, having inherited some money, stood for 
Parliament himself. He stood as a Conservative 
at a General Election and spoke eloquently to 
enthusiastic meetings. The wire-pullers prophe- 
cied an overwhelming majority, when shortly 
before the poll, at one of his last meetings, he 
suddenly declared himself to be an Independent, 
and made a speech violently in favour of Home 
Rule and conscription. The result was that the 
Liberal Imperialist got in by a huge majority, and 
the man who gave good advice was pelted with 
rotten eggs. 

After this the man who gave good advice aban- 
doned politics and took to finance ; in this branch 
of human affairs he made the fortune of several of 
his friends, preventing some from putting their 
money in alluring South African schemes, and 
advising others to risk theirs on events which 
seemed to him certain, such as the election of a 
President or the short-lived nature of a revolution ; 
events which he foresaw with intuition amounting 
to second-sight. At the same time he lost nearly 
all his own money by investing it in a company 



THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 153 

which professed to have discovered a manner 
cheap and rapid of transforming copper into 
platinum. He made the fortune of a publisher 
by insisting on the publication of a novel which 
six intelligent men had declared to be unreadable. 
It was called " The Conscience of John Digby," 
and when published it sold by thousands and tens 
of thousands. But he lost the handsome reward 
he received for this service by publishing at his 
own expense, on magnificent paper, an edition of 
Rabelais' works in their original tongue. He 
frequently spotted winners for his friends and for 
himself, but any money that he won at a race 
meeting he invariably lost coming home in the 
train on the Three Card Trick. 

Nor did he lose touch with politicians, and this 
brought about the final catastrophe. A great 
friend of his, the eminent John Brooke, had the 
chance of becoming Prime Minister. Parties were 
at that time in a state of confusion. The question 
was, should his friend ally himself with or sever 
himself for ever from Mr Capax Nissy, the leader of 
the Liberal Aristocracy Party, who seemed to 
have a huge following ? His friend, John Brooke, 
gave a small dinner to his most intimate friends in 
order to talk over the matter. The man who gave 
good advice was so eloquent, so cogent in his reason- 
ing, so acute in his perception, that he persuaded 
Brooke to sever himself for ever from Capax Nissy. 



154 THE MAN WHO GAVE GOOD ADVICE 

He persuaded all who were present, with the 
exception of Mr Short-Sight, a pig-headed man 
who reasoned falsely. So annoyed did the man 
who gave good advice become with Short-Sight, 
and so excited in his vexation, that he finally lost 
his self-control, and hit him as hard as he could 
on the head after Short-Sight had repeated a 
groundless assertion for the seventh time with 
the poker. 

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

" It's a great tragedy he was a clever man," 
said Brooke after dinner when they were discuss- 
ing the misfortune at Downing Street ; "a very 
clever man, but he had no judgment.' ' 

" No," said Snipe, the man whose private 
secretary the man who gave good advice had 
been, " That's it. It's an awful thing but he 
had no judgment." 



XIV 
RUSSALKA 



155 



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

It happened when the snows melted and the 
meadows were flooded ; the first fine day in April. 
The larks were singing over the plains, which were 



167 



158 RUSSALKA 

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

All the spring and summer they kept company 
and walked out together in the evenings. When 
the snows entirely melted and the true spring 
came, it came with a rush ; in a fortnight's time 
all the trees except the ash were green, and the bees 
boomed round the thick clusters of pear-blossom 
and apple-blossom, which shone like snow against 
the bright azure. During that time Petrushka 
and Tatiana walked in the apple orchard in the 
evening and they talked to each other in the 



RUSSALKA 159 

divinest of all languages, the language of first love, 
which is no language at all but a confused medley 
and murmur of broken phrases, whisperings, 
twitterings, pauses, and silences a language so 
wonderful that it cannot be put down into speech 
or words, although Shakespeare and the very 
great poets translate the spirit of it into music, 
and the great musicians catch the echo of it in 
their song. Then a fortnight later, when the 
woods were carpeted and thick with lilies of the 
valley, Petrushka and Tatiana walked in the 
woods and picked the last white violets, and later 
again they sought the alleys of the landlord's 
property, where the lilac bushes were a mass of 
blossom and fragrance, and there they listened to 
the nightingale, the bird of spring. Then came 
the summer, the fragrance of the beanfields, and 
the ripening of corn and the wonderful long twi- 
lights, and July, when the corn, ripe and tall and 
stiff, changed the plains into a vast rippling ocean 
of gold. 

After the harvest, at the very beginning of 
autumn, they were to be married. There had 
been a slight difficulty about money. Tatiana's 
father had insisted that Petrushka should produce 
a certain not very large sum ; but the difficulty 
had been overcome and the money had been found. 
There were no more obstacles, everything was 
smooth and settled. Petrushka no longer thought 



160 , RUSSALKA 

of travels in foreign lands ; he had forgotten the 
old dreams which " Monte Cristo " had once 
kindled in him. 

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

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

When Petrushka had finished his job, he sat on 
the wooden steps, and rolling some tobacco into 



RUSSALKA 161 

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

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



162 RUSSALKA 

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

He walked stealthily through the bushes down 
the bank of the river, making as little noise as 
possible. He thought he had marked the spot 
where the kingfisher had dived into the bank. As 
he walked, the undergrowth grew thicker and the 
path darker, for he had reached the wood, on the 
outskirts and end of which was the spot where he 
had made the steps. He walked on and on without 
thinking, oblivious of his surroundings, until he 
suddenly realised that he had gone too far. More- 
over, he must have been walking for some time, 
for it was getting dark, or was it a thunder-shower ? 
The air, too, was unbearably sultry ; he stopped 
and wiped his forehead with a big print handker- 
chief. It was impossible to reach the bank from 
the place where he now stood, as he was separated 
from it by a wide ditch of stagnant water. He 
therefore retraced his footsteps through the wood, 



RUSSALKA 163 

It grew darker and darker ; it must be, he thought, 
the evening deepening and no storm. 

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

Then all at once the stillness was broken again 
by quick rippling laughs immediately behind him. 
He turned sharply round, and saw a woman in 
the bushes : her eyes were large and green and 
sad ; her hair straggling and dishevelled ; she was 
dressed in reeds and leaves ; she was very pale. 
She stared at him fixedly and smiled, showing 
gleaming teeth, and when she smiled there was no 
light nor laughter in her eyes, which remained sad 
and green and glazed like those of a drowned 
person. She laughed again and ran into the 



164 RUSSALKA 

bushes. Petrushka ran after her, but although he 
was quite close to her he lost all trace of her im- 
mediately. It was as if she had vanished under 
the earth or into the air. 

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

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

" To-day is holiday," she said quietly. 

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

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



RUSSALKA 165 

rough, and told her not to vex him with foolishness. 
Reluctantly and sadly she gave in at last. 

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

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

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



XV 
THE OLD WOMAN 



167 



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

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

169 



170 THE OLD WOMAN 

the wool were the hands of a young woman, and 
seemed as though they had been fashioned by a 
rare craftsman, so perfect were they in shape and 
proportion, as firm as carved marble, as delicate 
as flowers. 

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

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

u You know all my stories," she said. 

"That doesn't matter," said the boy.. "You 
can tell us an old one." 

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

" No, not that one," one of the little boys inter- 
rupted, u tell us about the Queen without a heart." 
So the old woman began and said : 

" There was once upon a time a King and a 
Queen who had one daughter, and they invited 



THE OLD WOMAN 171 

all the gods and goddesses to the feast which they 
gave in honour of the birth of their child. The 
gods and goddesses came and gave the child every 
gift they could think of ; she was to be the most 
beautiful woman in the whole world, she was to 
dance like the West wind, to laugh like the stream, 
and to sing like the lark. Her hair should be made 
of sunshine, and her eyes should be as the sea in 
midsummer. She should excel in all things, in 
knowledge, in wit, and in skill ; she should be 
fleet of foot, a cunning harp-player, adept at all 
manner of woman-like crafts, and deft with the 
needle and the spinning-wheel, and at the loom. 
Zeus himself gave her stateliness and majesty, the 
Lord of the Sun gave a voice as of a golden flute ; 
Poseidon gave her the laughter of all the waves of 
the sea, the King of the Underworld gave her a 
red ruby to wear on her breast more precious than 
all the gems of the world. Artemis gave her 
swiftness and radiance, Persephone the fragrance 
and the freshness of all the flowers of spring ; 
Pallas Athene gave her curious knowledge and 
pleasant speech ; and, lastly, the Seaborn Goddess 
breathed upon her and gave her the beauty of the 
rose, the pearl, the dew, and the shells and the 
foam of the sea. But, alas ! the King and Queen 
had forgotten to ask one guest. The Goddess of 
Envy and Discord had been left out, and she came 
unbidden, and when all the gods and goddesses 



172 THE OLD WOMAN 

had given their gifts, she said : ' I too have a 
gift to give, a gift that will be more precious to 
her than any. I will give her a heart that shall 
be proof against all the onsets of the world.' So 
saying the Goddess of Envy took away the child's 
heart and put in its place a heart of stone, hard as 
adamant, bright and glittering as a gem. And the 
Goddess of Envy went her way mocking. The 
King and the Queen were greatly concerned, and 
they asked the gods and goddesses whether their 
daughter would ever recover her human heart. 
They were told that the Goddess of Envy would 
be obliged to give back the child's heart to the 
man who loved her enough to seek and to find it, 
and this would surely happen ; but when and how 
it was forbidden to them to reveal. 

" The child grew up and became the wonder of 
the world. She was married to a powerful King, 
and they lived in peace and plenty until the God- 
dess of Envy once more troubled the child's life. 
For owing to her subtle planning a Prince was 
promised for wife the fairest woman in the world, 
and he took the wife of the powerful King and 
carried her away to Asia to the six-gated city. 
The King prepared a host of ships and armed men 
and sailed to Asia to win back his wife. And he 
and his army fought for ten years until the six- 
gated city was taken, and he brought his wife 
home once more. Now during all the time the 



THE OLD WOMAN 173 

war lasted, although the whole world was filled 
with the fame of the King's wife and of her beauty, 
there was not found one man who was willing to 
seek for her heart and to find it, for some gave no 
credence to the tale, and others, believing it, 
reasoned that the quest might last a life-time, and 
that by the time they accomplished it the King's 
wife would be an old woman, and there would be 
fairer women in the world. Others, again, could 
not believe that in so perfect a woman there could 
be any fault ; they vowed her heart must be one with 
her matchless beauty, and they said that even if 
the tale were true, they preferred to worship her 
as she was, and they would not have her be other- 
wise or changed by a hair's breadth for all the 
world. Some, indeed, did set out upon the quest, 
but abandoned it soon from weariness and re- 
turned to bask in the beauty of the great 
Queen. 

" The years went by. The Queen journeyed to 
Egypt, to the mountains of the South, and the 
cities of the desert ; to the Pillars of Hercules and 
to the islands of the West. Wherever she went 
her fame spread like fire, and men fought and died 
for a glimpse of her marvellous beauty ; and 
wherever she passed she left behind her strife and 
sorrow like a burning trail. After many voyages she 
returned home and lived prosperously. The King 
her husband died, her children grew up and married 



174 THE OLD WOMAN 

and bore children themselves, and she continued 
to live peacefully in her palace. Her fame and 
her glory brought her neither joy nor sorrow, nor 
did she heed the spell that she cast on the hearts 
of men. 

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



THE OLD WOMAN 175 

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

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

N And is the story true ? " asked the other little 
boy. 

" Yes," said the old woman, " quite true." 

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

" Grandmother, were you ever young yourself ? " 

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

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



XVI 
DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 



177 



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

179 



i8o DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 

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

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

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

" What Signore ? " asked the Doctor, as he per- 



DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 181 

used the document, which consisted of words in 
the German tongue to the effect that the writer 
regretted his absence from the Doctor's feast, but 
would call at midnight. It was not signed. 

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

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

" Shall I lay one place less ? " asked the house- 
keeper. 

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

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

When her tears had somewhat subsided she told 
her story in broken sentences. Her daughter, 
Margherita, who was seventeen years old, had been 
allowed to spend the summer at Sorrento with her 
late father's sister. There, it appeared, she had 
met a " Signore," who had given her jewels, made 
love to her, promised her marriage, and held clan- 
destine meetings with her. Her aunt professed 
now to have been unaware of this ; but Maria 



182 DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 

assured the Doctor that her sister-in-law, who had 
the evil eye and had more than once trafficked 
with Satan, must have had knowledge of the 
business, even if she were not directly responsible, 
which was highly probable. In the meantime 
Margherita's brother Anselmo had returned from 
the wars in the North, and, discovering the truth, 
had sworn to kill the Signore unless he married 
Margherita. 

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

" Anything, anything/' she answered, " only 
calm my son Anselmo or else there will be a 
disaster." 

" Who is the Signore ? " asked the Doctor. 

" The Conte Guido da Siena," she answered. 

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

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

At mid-day the guests arrived. They consisted 
of Dr Cornelius, Vienna's most learned scholar ; 
Taddeo Mainardi, the painter ; a Danish student 



DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 183 

from the University of Wittenberg ; a young 
English nobleman, who was travelling in Italy ; 
and Guido da Siena, philosopher and poet, who 
was said to be the handsomest man in Italy. The 
Doctor set before his guests a precious wine from 
Cyprus, in which he toasted them, although as a 
rule he drank only water. The meal was served in 
the cool loggia overlooking the bay, and the talk, 
which was of the men and books of many climes, 
flowed like a rippling stream on which the sun- 
shine of laughter lightly played. 

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

" We take no thought of such things here/' 
said the Doctor. " In my youth, when I studied 
in the North, experiments of that nature exercised 
a powerful sway over my mind. I dabbled in 
alchemy ; I tried and indeed considered that I 
succeeded in raising spirits and visions ; but two 
things are necessary for such a study : youth, and 
the mists of the Northern country. Here the 
generous sun kills such phantasies. There are no 



184 DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 

phantoms here. Moreover, I am convinced that 
in all such experiments success depends on the 
state of mind of the inquirer, which not only per- 
suades, but indeed compels itself by a strange 
magnetic quality to see the vision it desires. In 
my youth I considered that I had evoked visions 
of Satan and Helen of Troy, and what not such 
things are fit for the young. We greybeards have 
more serious things to occupy us, and when a man 
has one foot in the grave, he has no time to waste/' 

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

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

M Men and women are the only study fit for a 
man," interrupted Guido, " and as for the phil- 
osopher's stone I have found it. I found it some 
months ago in a garden at Sorrento. It is a pearl 
radiant with all the hues of the rainbow." 

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

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



DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 185 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Doctor started a familiar voice seemed to 
whisper in his ear : " She is not the first one." A 
strange shudder passed through him, and he dis- 



186 DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 

tinctly heard a mocking voice laughing. " Go 
your way," he said, " but do not come and com- 
plain to me if you bring unhappiness on yourself 
and her." 

Guido departed and the Doctor retired to enjoy 
his siesta. 

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

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

The Doctor sighed and watched the pageant of 
light until it faded and the stars lit up the magical 
blue darkness. Then out of the night came an- 
other song a song which seemed familiar to the 
Doctor, although for the moment he could not 
place it, about a King in the Northern Country 



DR FAUST'S LAST DAY 187 

who was faithful to the grave and to whom his 
dying mistress a golden beaker gave. 

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

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

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

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

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



XVII 
THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 



189 



I 



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

Thus it happened that of a Saturday and Sunday 
there was nearly always a mixed gathering of men 

191 



192 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

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

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

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



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 193 

The guests knew that this hint was imperative, 
and so putting away his score, the flute-player 
said : " My story is called, * The Fiddler/ And 
he began : 

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

V All the necessary preparations for the wedding, 
which was to be held on a splendid scale, were 
made. There was to be a whole week of feasting ; 
and tumblers and musicians came from distant 
parts of the country to take part in the festivities 
and merry-making. In the village, which was 
close to the castle, a fair was held, and the musicians, 

N 



194 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

tumblers, and mountebanks, who had thronged 
to it, performed in front of the castle walls for the 
amusement of the Count's guests. 

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

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

" He played in view of the festive occasion 
a joyous melody. And, as he played, the air 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 195 

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

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



196 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

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

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

" You play very well very well, indeed/ said 
the Count. 

M But that sad music is, I think, rather out of 
place to-day/ said the Countess. 

" ' Yes, let us have another cheerful tune/ said 
the Count. 

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

" Elisinde rose from her chair as though the spirit 
of the music beckoned her, but looking round she 
saw no partner to her taste. She sat down again 
and stared at the fiddler. His eyes were fixed on 
her, and as she looked at him his squalor and rags 
seemed to fade away and his blue eyes that glittered 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 197 

like gold seemed to grow larger, and his hair to grow 
brighter till it shone like fire. And he seemed to 
be caught in a rosy cloud of light : tall, splendid, 
young, and glowing like a god. 

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

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

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

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

" ' I would come with you to the end of the world,' 
she said, * but how can I get away from this castle ? ' 



198 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

" He threw a rope ladder up to her. ' Make it 
fast to the bar/ he said, ' and let yourself down.' 

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

" ' Rather all the misery in the world/ she said, 
* than the awful doom which awaits me here. 
Besides which I love you, and we shall be very 
happy/ 

" They scaled the wall, and on the other side of 
it the fiddler had two horses, waiting tied to the 
gate. They galloped through many villages, and 
by the dawn they had reached a village far beyond 
the Count's lands. Here they stopped at an inn, 
and they were married by the priest that day. But 
they did not stop in this village ; they sought a 
further country, beyond reach of all pursuit. They 
settled in a village, and the fiddler earned his bread 
by his riddling, and Elisinde kept their cottage 
neat and clean. For awhile they were as happy 
as the day was long ; the fiddler found favour 
everywhere by his fiddling, and Elisinde ingratiated 
herself by her gentle ways. But one day when 
Elisinde was lying in bed and the fiddler had lulled 
her to sleep with his music, some neighbours, 
attracted by the sound, passed the cottage and 
looked in at the window. And to their astonish- 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 199 

ment they saw the fiddler sitting by a bed on which 
lay what seemed to them to be a sleeping princess ; 
and the whole cottage was full of dazzling light, 
and the fiddler's face shone, and his hair and his 
eyes glittered like gold. They went away much 
frightened, and told the whole village the news. 

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

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

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

" The next day the villagers sought the barn, 



200 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

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



II 

" We wish to hear the end of your story/' said 
the ex-Prime Minister to the flute-player. 

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

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

" The child of Elisinde and the fiddler," began 
the flute-player, " was, as I have already told you, 
a boy. The woodcutter who took pity on him 
was old and childless. He brought the baby to his 
hut, and gave it over to the care of his wife. At 
first she pretended to be angry, and said that 
nothing would persuade her to have anything to do 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 201 

with the child, and that it was all they could do 
to feed themselves without picking up waifs in the 
gutter ; but she ended by looking after the baby 
with the utmost tenderness and care, and by loving 
it as much as if it had been her own child. The 
baby was christened Franz. As soon as he was able 
to walk and talk there were two things about him 
which were remarkable. The first was his hair, 
which glittered like sunlight ; the second was his 
fondness for all musical sounds. When he was 
four years old he had made himself a flute out of a 
reed, and on this he played all day, imitating the 
song of the birds. He was in his sixth year when 
an event happened which changed his life. He was 
sitting in front of the woodcutter's cottage one day, 
when a bright cavalcade passed him. It was a 
nobleman from a neighbouring castle, who was 
travelling to the city with his retainers. Among 
these was a Kapellmeister, who organised the 
music of this nobleman's household. The moment 
he caught sight of Franz and heard his piping, he 
stopped, and asked who he was. 

" The woodcutter's wife told him the story of 
the finding of the waif, to which both the nobleman 
and himself listened with great interest. The 
Kapellmeister said that they should take the child 
with them ; that he should be attached to the noble- 
man's household and trained as a member of his 
choir or his string band, according to his capacities. 



202 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

The nobleman, who was passionately fond of 
music, and extremely particular with regard to the 
manner of its performance, was delighted with the 
idea. The offer was made to the woodcutter and 
his wife, and although she cried a good deal they 
were both forced to recognise that they had no 
right to interfere with the child's good fortune. 
Moreover, the gift of a purse full of gold (which the 
nobleman gave them) did not make the matter 
more distasteful. 

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

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



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 203 

organ player, and he played with skill on the flute 
and the clavichord. 

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

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

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

" Now the Emperor had a daughter called 
Kunigmunde, who was beautiful and wildly roman- 



2o 4 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

tic. She was immediately spellbound by Franz's 
music, and he became the lodestar of her dreams. 
Often in the afternoon she would steal up to the 
organ loft, where he was playing alone, and sit 
for hours listening to his improvisations. They 
did not speak to each other much, but ever since 
Franz had set eyes on her something new had 
entered into his soul and spoke in his music, some- 
thing tremulous and strange and wonderful. 

" For a year Franz's life ran placidly and 
smoothly. He was made much of, praised and 
petted ; but now, as before, he seemed quite un- 
aware of the outside world and its doings, and he 
moved in a world of his own, only he was no longer 
alone in his secret habitation, it was inhabited 
by another shape, the beautiful, dark-haired 
Princess Kunigmunde, and in her honour he com- 
posed songs, minuets, sonatas, hymns, and 
triumphal marches. As was only natural, there 
were not wanting at Court persons who were 
envious of Franz, his talent, and his good fortune. 
And among them there was a musician, a tenor in 
the Imperial choir, called Albrecht, who hated 
Franz with his whole heart. He was a dark-eyed, 
dark-haired creature, slightly deformed ; he limped, 
and he had a sinister look as though of a satyr. 
Nevertheless he was highly gifted and composed 
music of his own which, although it was not radiant 
like that of Franz, was full of brilliance and not 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 205 

without a certain compelling power. Albrecht 
revolved in his mind how he might ruin Franz. 
He tried to excite the envy of the courtiers against 
him, but Franz was such a modest fellow, so kindly 
and good-natured, that it was not easy to make 
people dislike him. Nevertheless there were many 
who were tired of hearing him praised, and many 
who were secretly tired of the perpetual beauty 
and radiance of Franz's music, and wished for 
something new even though it should be ugly. 

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

" When the hour of the contest came it took 
place in the great throne-room before the Emperor, 
the Empress, their sons, their daughter, and the 
whole Court after the banquet Franz was the 
first to display his work. He sat down at the 
clavichord and sang what he had composed in honour 
of the Princess. He had made three little songs 
for her. Franz had not much voice, but it had a 



206 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

peculiar wail in it, and he sang, like the born and 
trained musician that he was, with that absolute 
mastery over his means, that certain perfection 
of utterance, that power of conveying, to the shade 
of a shade, the inmost spirit and meaning of the 
music which only belong to those great and rare 
artists whose perfect art is alive with the inspiration 
that cannot be learnt. 

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

" Albrecht followed him. The swarthy singer 
sat down to the instrument and struck a ringing 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 207 

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

" When the ceremony was over, Franz, who was 
indifferent to his defeat, went to the chapel of the 
palace, and lighting a candle, walked up into the 
organ loft. There he played to himself another 
song, a hymn he had composed in honour of 
Princess Kunigmunde. It was filled with rapture 
and a breathless wonder, and in it his inmost soul 
spoke its unuttered love. He had not sung this song 
in public, it was too sacred. As he played and sang 



208 THE FLUTE PLAYER'S-STORY 

to himself in a low voice he was aware of a soft 
footstep. He started and looked round, and there, 
was the Princess, bright in silk and jewels, with 
a pink rose in her powdered hair. She took this 
rose and laid it lightly on the black keys. 

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

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

" ' Come with me,' he said, in a broken voice. 
1 Let us fly from this Court to the hills and be 
happy.' 

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

" Then Franz mastered himself once more, and 
said : ' Of course, it is impossible. I was mad.' 

" The Princess kissed her hand to him and fled. 

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

" That night Princess Kunigmunde had a strange 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 209 

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

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

" Presently the satyr breathed on his flute and a 
wonderful note trembled in the air, soft, low, and 
o 



210 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

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

" But this time the magic was of another kind 
and a thousand times more mighty ; a song rose 
into the air which leapt and soared like a flame, 
imperious as the flashing of a sword, triumphant 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 211 

as the waving of a banner, wonderful as the dawn 
and fresh as the laughing sea. And once more 
Princess Kunigmunde was aware that the music was 
familiar to her. She had heard something like it, 
a pale reflection of it, before, and she had heard it 
in the chapel that evening, when in the darkness 
Franz had played and sung the hymn that he had 
composed in her honour. Only now it was more 
than human, unearthly and divine. As soon as he 
ceased an eclipse seemed to darken the world, a 
thick cloud of rolling darkness ; there was a crash 
of thunder, a flash of lightning, and out of the 
blackness came a piteous, human cry, the cry of a 
creature in anguish, and then a faint moaning. 

" Presently all was still, but the dark cloud 
remained, and she heard a mocking laugh and the 
accents of a clear, scornful voice (she recognised 
the voice, it was the voice of Albrecht), and the 
voice said : ' Thou hast conquered, Apollo, and 
cruelly hast thou used thy victory ; and cruelly 
hast thou punished me for daring to challenge thy 
divine skill. It was mad indeed to compete with 
a god ; and yet shall I avenge my wrong and thy 
harshness shall recoil on thee. For not even gods 
can be unjust with impunity, and the Fates are 
above us all. And I shall be avenged ; for all thy 
sons shall suffer what I have suffered ; and there 
is not one of them that shall escape the doom and 
not share the fate of Marsyas the Satyr, whom 



212 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

thou didst cruelly slay. The music and the skill 
which shall be their inheritance shall be the cause 
to them of sorrow and grief unending and pitiless 
pain and misery. Their life shall be as bitter to 
them as my death has been to me. Their music 
shall rill the world with sweetness and ravish the 
ears of listening nations, but to them it shall 
bring no joy ; for life like a cruel blade shall flay 
and lay bare their hearts, and sorrow like a searching 
wind shall play upon their souls and make them 
tremble, even as the scabbard of my body trembled 
in the breeze ; and just as from that trembling 
husk of what was once myself there came forth 
sweet sounds, so shall it be with their souls, shiver- 
ing and trembling in the cold wind of life. Music 
shall come from them, but this music shall be born 
of agony ; nor shall they utter a single note that 
is not begotten of sorrow or pain. And so shall 
the children of Apollo suffer and share the pain of 
Marsyas. 

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

" The next morning Franz, as he walked into 
the chapel to practice on the organ, was met by 
two soldiers, who bade him follow them, and he was 
shut up in the prison of the palace. No word of 
explanation was given him ; nor had he any idea 



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 213 

what the crime might be of which he was accused, 
or of his ultimate fate. But in the evening, when 
the gaoler's daughter brought him his food, she 
made him a sign, and he found in his loaf of bread 
a rose, a file, and a tiny scroll, on which the follow- 
ing words were written : Albrecht denounced you. 
Fly for your life. K.' Later, when the gaolers 
had gone to sleep, the gaoler's daughter stole to his 
cell. She brought him a rope, and a purse full of 
silver. He filed the bars and let himself down 
into a narrow street of the city. 

" By the time the sun rose he had left the city 
far behind him. He journeyed on and on till he 
passed the frontier of the Emperor's dominions 
and reached a neighbouring State. By the time 
he came to a city he had spent his money, and he 
was in rags and tatters ; nevertheless, he managed 
to earn his bread by making music in the streets, 
and after a time a well-to-do citizen who noticed 
him took him into his house and entrusted him 
with the task of teaching music to his sons and of 
playing him to sleep in the evening. Franz spent 
his leisure hours in composing an opera called 
" The Death of Adonis,' into which he poured all 
the music of his soul, all his love, his sorrow, and 
his infinite desire. He lived for this only, and 
during all the hours he spent when he was not 
working at his opera he was like a man in a dream, 
unconscious of the realities around him. In a year 



214 THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 

his opera was finished. He took it to the Intendant 
of the Ducal Theatre in the city and played it to 
him, and the Intendant, greatly pleased, determined 
to have it performed without delay. The best 
singers were allotted parts in it, and it was per- 
formed before the Arch-Duke and his Court, and a 
multitude of people. 

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



THE FLUTE-PLAYER'S STORY 215 

proved unsuccessful, and it was with difficulty 
that he earned a few pence every day. 

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

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



XVIII 
A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 



217 



" "XTES, I am a student," said the Chinaman, 

1 " and I came here to study the English 
manners and customs." 

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

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

" It's a beautiful place, is it not ? " I remarked. 

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

" What did you see at Oxford ? " I asked. 

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

" What did you think of that ? " 

" I think," he said, " the young people seemed 

219 



220 A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 

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

" What did you think," I asked, " of the educa- 
tion that the students at Oxford receive ? " 

" I think," said the Chinaman, " that inasmuch 
as the young men waste their time in idleness they 
do well ; for the wise men who are chosen to in- 



A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 221 

struct the young at your places of learning, are not 
always wise. I visited a professor of Oriental 
languages. His servant asked me to wait, and after 
I had waited three quarters of an hour, he sent 
word to say that he had tried everywhere to find 
the professor in the University who spoke French, 
but that he had not been able to find him. And 
so he asked me to call another day. I had dinner 
in a college hall. I found that the professors 
talked of many things in such a way as would be 
impossible to children of five and six in our country. 
They are quite ignorant of the manners and customs 
of the people of other European countries. They 
pronounce Greek and Latin and even French in the 
same way as English. I mentioned to one of them 
that I had been employed for some time in the 
Chinese Legation ; he asked me if I had had much 
work to do. I said yes, the work had been heavy. 
1 But,' he observed, ' I suppose a great deal of the 
work is carried on directly between the Govern- 
ments and not through the Ambassadors.' I 
cannot conceive what he meant or how such a thing 
could be possible, or what he considered the use and 
function of Embassies and Legations to be. They 
most of them seemed to take for granted that I 
could not speak English : some of them addressed 
me in a kind of baby language ; one of them spoke 
French. The professor who spoke to me in this 
language told me that the French possessed no 



222 A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 

poetical literature, and he said the reason of this 
was that the French language was a bastard 
language ; that it was, in fact, a kind of pigeon 
Latin. He said when a Frenchman says a girl is 
* beaucoup belle/ he is using pigeon Latin. The 
courtesy due to a host prevented me from suggest- 
ing that if a Frenchman said ' beaucoup belle ' 
he would be talking pigeon French. 

" Another professor said to me that China would 
soon develop if she adopted a large Imperial ideal, 
and that in time the Chinese might attain to a great 
position in the world, such as the English now held. 
He said the best means of bringing this about 
would be to introduce cricket and football into 
China. I told him that I thought this was im- 
probable, because if the Chinese play games, they 
do not care who is the winner ; the fun of the game 
is to us the improvisation of it as opposed to the 
organisation which appeals to the people here. 
Upon which he said that cricket was like a symphony 
of music. In a symphony every instrument plays 
its part in obedience to one central will, not for its 
individual advantage but in order to make a beauti- 
ful whole. ' So it is with our games/ he said, 
' every man plays his part not for the sake of 
personal advantage, but so that his side may win ; 
and thus the citizen is taught to sink his own 
interests in those of the community/ I told him 
the Chinese did not like symphonies, and Western 



A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 223 

music was intolerable to them for this very reason. 
Western musicians seem to us to take a musical idea 
which is only worthy of a penny whistle (and would 
be very good indeed if played on a penny whistle !) ; 
and they sit down and make a score of it twenty 
yards broad, and set a hundred highly-trained 
and highly-paid musicians to play it. It is the 
contrast between the tremendous apparatus and 
waste of energy on one side, and the light and 
playful character of the business itself on the other, 
which makes me, a Chinaman, as incapable of ap- 
preciating your complicated games as I am of ap- 
preciating the complicated symphonies of the 
Germans or the elaborate rules which their students 
make with regard to the drinking of beer. We like 
a man for taking his fun and not missing a joke 
when he finds it by chance on his way, but we 
cannot understand his going out of his way to pre- 
pare a joke and to make arrangements for having 
some fun at a certain fixed date. That is why we 
consider a wayside song, a tune that is heard 
wandering in the summer darkness, to be better 
than twenty concerts." 

" What did the professor say ? " I asked. 

" He said that if I were to stay long enough in 
England and go to a course of concerts at the 
Chelsea Town Hall, I would soon learn to think 
differently. And that if cricket and football were 
introduced into China, the Chinese would soon 



224 A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 

emerge out of their backwardness and barbarism 
and take a high place among the enlightened nations 
of the world. I thought to myself as he said this 
that your games are no doubt an excellent substitute 
for drill, but if we were to submit to so complicated 
an organisation it would be with a purpose : in 
order to turn the Europeans out of China, for 
instance ; but that organisation without a purpose 
would always seem to us to be stupid, and we 
should no more dream of organising our play than 
of organising a stroll in the twilight to see the 
Evening Star, or the chase of a butterfly in the 
spring. If we were to decide on drill it would 
be drill with a vengeance and with a definite aim ; 
but we should not therefore and thereby destroy 
our play. Play cannot exist for us without fun, 
and for us the open air, the fields, and the meadows 
are like wine : if we feel inclined, we roam and jump 
about in them, but we should never submit to 
standing to attention for hours lest a ball should 
escape us. Besides which, we invented the founda- 
tions of all your games many thousand of years 
ago. We invented and played at ' Diabolo ' 
when the Britons were painted blue and lived in 
the woods. The English knew how to play once, 
in the days of Queen Elizabeth ; then they had 
masques and madrigals and Morris dances and music. 
A gentleman was ashamed if he did not speak six 
or seven languages, handle the sword with a deadly 



A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 225 

dexterity, play chess, and write good sonnets. 
Men were broken on the wheel for an idea : they 
were brave, cultivated, and gay ; they fought, they 
played, and they wrote excellent verse. Now they 
organise games and lay claim to a special morality 
and to a special mission ; they send out missionaries 
to civilise us savages ; and if our people resent 
having an alien creed stuffed down their throats, 
they take our land and burn our homes in the name 
of Charity, Progress, and Civilisation. They seek 
but one thing gold ; they preach competition, 
but competition for what ? For this : who shall 
possess the most, who shall most successfully ' do ' 
his neighbour. These ideals and aims do not 
tempt us. The quality of the life is to us more 
important than the quantity of what is done and 
achieved. We live, as we play, for the sake of 
living. I did not say this to the professors because 
we have a proverb that when you are in a man's 
country you should not speak ill of it. I say it to 
you because I see you have an inquiring mind, and 
you would feel it more insulting to be served with 
meaningless phrases and empty civilities than with 
the truth, however bitter. For those who have 
once looked the truth in the face cannot after- 
wards be put off with false semblances/' 

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

" The gardens," he answered, " and the little 
p 



226 A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 

yellow flowers that are sprinkled like stars on your 
green grass.' ' 

" And what do you like least in England ? " 

M The horrible smells," he said. 

" Have you no smells in China ? " I asked. 

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



A CHINAMAN ON OXFORD 227 

everywhere the sense of leisure, the absence of 
hurry and bustle and confusion ; the dignity of 
manners and the grace of expression and of address. 
And, above all, the smell of life everywhere/' 

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

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



XIX 

VENUS 



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

When he left school he went to Oxford. His life 

231 



232 VENUS 

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

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

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



VENUS 233 

and take a living interest in somebody or in 
something. 

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

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



234 VENUS 

doubt intended to represent the most brilliant of 
the planets. 

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

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

He walked towards the vegetation, and soon 
found himself in the middle of a wood, or rather 



VENUS 235 

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

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

After he had been walking for what seemed to 
him several hours, the vegetation grew thinner, the 
jungle less dense, and from a more or less open space 
in it he seemed to discern what might have been 



236 VENUS 

a mountain entirely submerged in a multitude of 
heavy grey clouds. He sat down on the green stuff 
which was like grass and yet was not grass, at the 
edge of the open space whence he got this view, and 
quite naturally he picked from the boughs of an 
overhanging tree a large red, juicy fruit, and eat 
it. Then he said to himself, he knew not why, 
that he must not waste time, but must be moving 
on. 

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

" I shall get there in time," he said to himself, 
and walked steadily on, looking neither to the right 
nor to the left. It was evening by the time he 
reached the edge of the plain : everything was 
growing dark. The endless vapours and the high 
banks of cloud in which the whole of this world 
was sunk grew dimmer and dimmer. In front of 



VENUS 237 

him was an empty level space, and about two miles 
further on the huge mushrooms stood out, tall and 
wide like the monuments of some prehistoric age. 
And underneath them on the soft carpet there 
seemed to move a myriad vague and shadowy 
forms. 

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

He ran on, and now at his very feet, right in 
front of him, the green caterpillars were moving. 
They were as big as leopards. As he drew nearer 
they seemed to make way for him, and to gather 
themselves into groups under the thick stems of the 
mushrooms. He walked along the pathway they 
made for him, under the shadow of the broad, 
sunshade-like roofs oi these gigantic growths. 
It was almost dark now, yet he had no doubt or 
difficulty as to finding his way. He was making 
for the green plain beyond. The ground was dense 
with caterpillars ; they were as plentiful as ants 
in an ant's nest, and yet they never seemed to 



238 VENUS 

interfere with each other or with him ; they in- 
stinctively made way for him, nor did they appear 
to notice him in any way. He felt neither surprise 
nor wonder at their presence. 

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

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

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



VENUS 239 

moths. They rose from every part of that green 
plain of stalks, they filled the sky, and then soared 
upwards and disappeared into the silvery cloudland. 

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

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



II 

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

The next day he returned to his work at the office, 
and his fellow-clerks, during the whole of the next 
week, noticed that he was more zealous and more 
painstaking than ever. On the other hand, his 
periodical fits of abstraction grew more frequent 
and more pronounced. On one occasion he took 
a paper to the head of the department for signature, 
and after it had been signed, instead of removing 



240 VENUS 

it from the table, he remained staring in front of 
him, and it was not until the head of the depart- 
ment had called him three times loudly by name 
that he took any notice and regained possession of 
his faculties. As these fits of absent-mindedness 
grew to be somewhat severely commented on, he 
consulted a doctor, who told him that what he 
needed was change of air, and advised him to spend 
his Sundays at Brighton or at some other bracing 
and exhilarating spot. Fletcher did not take the 
doctor's advice, but continued spending his spare 
time as he did before, that is to say, in going to 
some big junction and watching the express trains 
go by all day long. 

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

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



VENUS 241 

M You are in an office, no doubt," said the Indian. 

" Yes," said Fletcher. 

" And you are no doubt hard worked." 

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

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

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

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

The Indian was thoughtful for a while after 

hearing this tale. At last he said : "lam not a 

doctor, I am not even what you call a quack 

doctor I am a mere conjurer, and I gain my 

Q 



242 VENUS 

living by conjuring tricks and fortune-telling at 
the Exhibition which is going on in London. But 
although I am a poor man and an ignorant man, 
I have an inkling, a few sparks in me of ancient 
knowledge, and I know what is the matter with 

you." 

" What is it ? " asked Fletcher. 

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

M Is there anything I can do to prevent it ? " 
asked Fletcher. 

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

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

On the next day, which was Monday, when 
Fletcher got to the office it was necessary for him 
to use the telephone with regard to some business. 
No sooner had he taken the receiver off the tele- 
phone than he vividly recalled the minute details 
of the evening he had telephoned, when the strange 
experience had come to him. The advertisement 
of Venus Soap that had hung in the telephone box 



VENUS 243 

in his house appeared distinctly before him, and as 
he thought of that he once more experienced a 
falling sensation which lasted only a fraction of a 
second, and rubbing his eyes he awoke to find 
himself in the tepid atmosphere of a green and 
humid world. 

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

At that moment Fletcher was seized by an un- 
accountable panic. He was afraid of something ; 
he did not know what it was, but he knew, he felt 
absolutely certain, that some danger, no vague 
calamity, no distant misfortune, but some definite 
physical danger was hanging over him and quite 
close to him something from which it would be 



244 VENUS 

necessary to run away, and to run fast in order to 
save his life. And yet there was no sign of danger 
visible, for in front of him was the motionless oily 
sea, and behind him was the empty and silent plain. 
It was then he noticed that the caterpillars were 
fast disappearing, as if into the earth : he was too 
far off to make out how. 

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

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

It grew darker and darker. It was night in the 
forest. He stood paralysed with terror ; he felt 
as though bound hand and foot, but there was 
nothing to be done except to wait until his in- 



VENUS 245 

visible enemy should choose to inflict his will on 
him and achieve his doom. And yet the agony 
of this suspense was so terrible that he felt that if 
it lasted much longer something must inevitably 
break inside him . . . and just as he was thinking 
that eternity could not be so long as the moments 
he was passing through, a blessed unconsciousness 
came over him. He woke from this state to find 
himself face to face with one of the office messengers, 
who said to him that he had been given his number 
two or three times but had taken no notice of it. 

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

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



246 VENUS 

set alight in his mind the train of associations and 
bring his thoughts back to his dreadful experience. 

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

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

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



XX 
THE FIRE 



247 



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

The firemen, working like bees, were doing what 
they could to extinguish the flames and to prevent 
the fire spreading. Volunteers from the crowd 
helped them. One man climbed up on the edge 
of the wooden house, where the flames had been 

249 



250 THE FIRE 

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

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

The cottages had disappeared ; in their place 
were great high buildings with lofty porticos, 
broad columns and carved friezes, but flames were 



THE FIRE 251 

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

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

All at once a woman walked in front of the 
burning pile. She was tall, and silken folds clothed 
the perfect lines of her body and fell straight to the 
ground. She walked royally, and when she moved 



252 THE FIRE 

her gestures were like the rhythm of majestic music. 
The firelight shone on her hair, which was bound 
with a narrow golden band. Her hair was like a 
cloud of spun sunshine, and it seemed brighter 
than the flames. She was walking with downcast 
eyes, but presently she looked up. Her face was 
calm, and faultless as skilfully-hewn marble, and it 
seemed to be made of some substance different from 
the clay which goes to the making of men and 
women. It was not an angel's face ; it was not 
a divine face ; neither was it a wicked face, nor 
had it anything cruel, nor anything of the siren 
or the witch. Love and pleasure seemed to have 
moulded the flower-like lips ; but an infinite care- 
lessness shone in the still blue eyes. They seemed 
like two seas that had never known what winds and 
tempests mean, but which bask for ever under un- 
ruffled skies lulled by a slumber-scented breeze. 

She looked up at the fire and smiled, and at that 
smile one thought the heavens must open and the 
stars break into song, so marvellous was its loveli- 
ness, so infinitely radiant the glory of it. She was 
a woman, and yet more than a woman, a creature 
of the earth, yet fashioned of pearls and dew and 
the petals of flowers : delicate as a gossamer, and 
yet radiant with the flush of life, soft as the twilight, 
and glowing with the blood of the ruby ; and, 
above all things, serene, calm, aloof, and unruffled 
like the silver moon. When the dying men saw her 



THE FIRE 253 

smile they raised their eyes towards her, and one 
could see that there shone in them a strange and 
wonderful happiness. And when they had looked 
they fell back and died. 

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

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



254 THE FIRE 

fireworks. Again a cloud of smoke obscured 
everything. 

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

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



XXI 
THE CONQUEROR 



m 



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

One evening, not long after her arrival (it was 
Midsummer Eve), as she was wandering in a thick 
wood, she noticed that the trees and the under- 
growth were twinkling with a myriad soft flames 
which reminded her of the fireflies of her own 
country, and presently she perceived that these 

R 267 



258 THE CONQUEROR 

flames were stars which, soft as dew and bright as 
moonbeams, formed the diadems crowning the hair 
of unearthly shapes. These shapes were like those 
of men and maidens, transfigured and rendered 
strange and delicate, as light as foam, and radiant 
as dragonflies hovering over a pool. They were 
rimmed with rainbow-coloured films, and sometimes 
they flew and sometimes they danced, but they 
rarely seemed to touch the ground. And as 
Proserpine approached them, in the sad majesty 
of her fallen divinity, they gathered round her 
in a circle and bowed down before her. And one 
of them, taller than the rest, advanced towards 
her and said : 

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



THE CONQUEROR 259 

conquer your kingdom and deliver its secrets to 
the mortal world. Then shall you abandon the 
kingdom of the Fairies the everlasting Limbo 
shall receive you." 

Thus it came about that Proserpine became 
Queen of the Fairies, and she ruled them well, and 
the mortals in their farms and their cottages blessed 
her because she took care that the goblins did their 
work properly and earned the cream-bowl which 
was set for them by the housewife. 

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

The day was hot it was Midsummer Day and 
William, having stumbled on a convenient mound, 
fell asleep. And he dreamt a curious dream. 



260 THE CONQUEROR 

He thought he saw a beautiful maiden walking 
towards him. She was tall, and clothed in dark 
draperies, and her hair was bound with a coronal 
of scarlet flowers, her face was pale and lustrous, 
and he could not see her eyes because they were 
veiled. She approached him and said : 

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

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

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

Immediately Proserpine vanished, and William 
found himself in a large green garden of fruit trees, 



THE CONQUEROR 261 

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

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

Then the garden changed its semblance, and all 
around him there seemed to be a hedge of smoking 
thorns and before him a fiery tree on which blood- 
red roses shone like rubies. The tree was guarded 
by a maiden with long grey eyes and flowing hair, 
as of spun moonshine, beautiful exceedingly, and 
a moaning voice came from the tree, saying : 
" He who would pluck the rose must slay its 
guardian." On the grass beneath the tree lay an 
unsheathed sword. William took the sword in 



262 THE CONQUEROR 

his hands, but the maiden looked at him piteously 
and wept, so that he hesitated ; then, hardening 
himself, he plunged the sword into her heart and 
a great moan was heard, and the fire disappeared, 
and only a withered rose-tree stood before him. 
Then he heard the voice say that he must pierce his 
own heart with a thorn from the tree and let the 
blood fall upon its roots. This he did, and as he 
did so he felt the sharpness of Death, as though 
the last dreadful moment had come ; but as the 
drops of blood fell on the roots the beautiful maiden 
with veiled eyes whom he had seen before stood 
before him and gave him the blood-red rose, and 
she touched his wound and straightway it was 
healed. 

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



THE CONQUEROR 263 

him. He tore the hood from the bony head and 
looked boldly into the fiery sockets. 

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

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

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

Soon after this he left his native village 



264 THE CONQUEROR 

and went to London, where he became well 

known ; although how his surname should be 

spelt is a matter of dispute, some spelling 

it Shakespeare, some Shakespere, and some 
Shaksper. 



XXII 
THE IKON 



265 



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

The years slipped by and he never began his 
magnum opus ; he joined a literary club instead 
and discussed the current topics of the day. Some- 
times he wrote a short article ; never in the daily 
Press, which he despised, nor in the reviews (for 
he never wrote anything as long as a magazine 
article), but in a literary weekly he would express 
in weary and polished phrases the unemphatic 
boredom or the mitigated approval with which the 
works of his fellow-men inspired him. He was the 

267 



268 THE IKON 

kind of man who had nothing in him you could 
positively dislike, but to whom you could not talk 
for five minutes without having a vague sensation 
of blight. Things seemed to shrivel up in his 
presence as though they had been touched by an 
insidious east wind, a subtle frost, a secret chill. 
He never praised anything, though he sometimes 
condescended to approve. The faint puffs of blame 
in which he more generally indulged were never 
sharp or heavy, but were like the smoke rings of 
a cigarette which a man indolently smoking blows 
from time to time up to the ceiling. 

He lived in rooms in the Temple. They were 
comfortably, not luxuriously furnished ; a great 
many French books French was the only modern 
language worth reading he used to say a few 
modern German etchings, a low Turkish divan, 
and some Egyptian antiquities, made up the 
furniture of his two sitting-rooms. Above all 
things he despised Greek art ; it was, he said, 
decadent. The Egyptians and the Germans were, 
in his opinion, the only people who knew anything 
about the plastic arts, whereas the only music he 
could endure was that of the modern French 
School. Over his chimney-piece there was a large 
German landscape in oils, called " Im Walde " ; 
it represented a wood at twilight in the autumn, 
and if you looked at it carefully and for a long time 
you saw that the objects depicted were meant to 



THE IKON 269 

be trees from which the leaves were falling ; but 
if you looked at the picture carelessly and from 
a distance, it looked like a man-of-war on a rough 
sea, for which it was frequently taken, much to 
Ferrol's annoyance. 

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

" Your things are good," he said, u very good. 
But don't you really mind having all these things 
about you ? " 

" Why should I mind ? " asked Ferrol. 

" Well, you have travelled a good deal, haven't 
you ? " 

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



270 THE IKON 

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

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

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

" No," Ferrol answered, " Egypt is Eastern 
enough for me, and cannot be bettered." 

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

" But why ? " asked Ferrol. 

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

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

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

" You don't seriously mean," said Ferrol, " that 
you attach any importance to these " he hesi- 
tated. 



THE IKON 271 

" Children's stories ? " suggested Sledge. 

Ferrol nodded. 

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

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

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

M Oh, that's nothing," said Ferrol, " only a 
small Ikon I bought for twopence at the Fair of 
Nij ni-Novgorod. ' ' 

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

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

The next day he spent in the country, returning 
to London late in the evening. As he entered his 
rooms the first thing which met his eye was that 
his great picture, " Im Walde," which he considered 
to be one of the few products of modern art that 
a man who respected himself could look at without 



272 THE IKON 

positive pain in the eyes, had fallen from its place 
over the chimney-piece to the floor in front of 
the fender, and the glass was shattered into a 
thousand fragments. He was much vexed. He 
sought the cause of the accident. The nail was a 
strong one, and it was still in its place. The picture 
had been hung by a wire ; the wire seemed strong 
also and was not broken. He concluded that the 
picture must have been badly balanced and that a 
sudden shock such as a door banging had thrown 
it over. He had no servant in his rooms, and when 
he had gone out that morning he had locked the 
door, so no one could have entered his rooms during 
his absence. 

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

The picture was hung early one morning. That 
day he went to play golf. He returned at five 
o'clock, and again the first thing which met his eye 



THE IKON 273 

was the picture. It had again fallen down, and 
this time it had brought with it in its fall 
the small Chinese god, which was broken in two. 
The glass had again been shattered to bits, 
and the picture itself was somewhat damaged. 
Everything else on the chimney-piece, that is to 
say, a few matchboxes and two candle-sticks, had 
also been thrown to the ground everything with 
the exception of the little Ikon he had bought at 
Nijni-Novgorod, a small object about two inches 
square on which two Saints were pictured. This 
still rested in its place against the wall. 

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

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

Next morning he sent again for the framemaker, 

and abused him roundly. The framemaker said 

he could not understand how the accident had 

happened. The nail was an excellent nail, the 

s 



274 THE IKON 

picture, Mr Ferrol must admit, had been hung with 
great care before his very eyes and under his own 
direct and personal supervision. What more could 
be done ? " 

u It's something to do with the balance," said 
Ferrol. " I told you that before. The picture 
is half spoiled now." 

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

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

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



THE IKON 275 

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

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

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

" What is that ? " asked Sledge. 

" He will be quite blind," said the doctor. 

Then the doctor went away, and Sledge sat 
down in front of the fire. The broken glass had 
been swept up. The picture had been placed on 
the Oriental divan, and as Sledge looked at the 
chimney-piece he noticed that the little Ikon was 



276 THE IKON 

still in its place. Something caught his eye just 
under the low fender in front of the fireplace. 
He bent forward and picked up the object. 

It was Ferrol's green Egyptian god, which had 
been broken into two pieces. 



XXI [I 
THE THIEF 



To Jack Gordon 



277 



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

" I can't," said Hart Minor, " I haven't finished 
my sum." 

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

279 



28o THE THIEF 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE THIEF 281 

on it during the rest of the lesson in the middle 
of the room. 

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

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

When the service, which lasted twenty minutes, 
was over, and the boys came out of chapel, Hart 
Minor was the centre of a jeering crowd of boys. 
He asked Smith what the cause of this was, and 
Smith confessed to him that before going into 
chapel Mr Whitehead had pinned on his back a 
large sheet of paper with " Cheat " written on it, 
and had only removed it just before the procession 



282 THE THIEF 

walked up the aisle, hence the interest aroused. 
But, contrary to his expectation, nothing further 
occurred ; none of the masters alluded to his mis- 
demeanour, and Hart Minor almost thought that 
the incident was closed almost, and yet really 
not at all ; he tried to delude himself into thinking 
the affair would blow over, but all the while at 
the bottom of his heart sat a horrible misgiving. 

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

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

M You can tell your people/' he said to Hart 
Minor, " that my favourite is old Polly." Polly 



THE THIEF 283 

was Hart Minor's nickname, which was given to 
him owing to his resemblance to a parrot. Hart 
Minor was much pleased at this friendly attitude, 
and began to think that the unpleasant incident 
of the week had been really forgotten and that 
the misgiving which haunted him night and day 
was a foolish delusion. 

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

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

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

The Head Master paused. " Hart Minor and 
Smith," he continued, " go to the bottom of the 
division. Smith," he added, " I'm astounded at 
you. Your conduct in this affair is inexplicable. 
If it were not for your previous record and good 



284 THE THIEF 

conduct, I should have you severely flogged ; and 
if Hart Minor were not a new boy, I should treat 
him in the same way and have him turned out of 
the choir. (The choir had special privileges.) 
As it is, you shall lose, each of you, 200 marks, 
and I shall report the whole matter in detail to your 
parents in your half-term report, and if anything 
of the sort ever occurs again, you shall be severely 
punished. You have been guilty of an act for 
which, were you not schoolboys, but grown up, you 
would be put in prison. It is this kind of thing 
that leads people to penal servitude." 

After the reading over was finished and the 
lessons that followed immediately on it, and the 
boys went out to wash their hands for luncheon, 
the boys of the second division crowded round Hart 
Minor and asked him how he could have perpetrated 
such a horrible and daring crime. The matter, 
however, was soon forgotten by the boys, but Hart 
Minor had not heard the last of it. On the following 
Sunday in chapel, at the evening service, the Head 
Master preached a sermon. He chose as his text 
" Thou shalt not steal ! " The eyes of the whole 
school were fixed on Smith and Hart Minor. The 
Head Master pointed out in his discourse that one 
might think at first sight that boys at a school 
might not have the opportunity to violate the 
tremendous Commandments ; but, he said, this 
was not so. The Commandments were as much 



THE THIEF 285 

a living actuality in school life as they were in the 
larger world. Coming events cast their shadows 
before them ; the child was the father of the man ; 
what a boy was at school, such would he be in after 
life. Theft, the boys perhaps thought, was not a 
sin which immediately concerned them. But there 
were things which were morally the same if not worse 
than the actual theft of material and tangible 
objects dishonesty in the matter of marks, for 
instance, and cheating in order to gain an undue 
advantage over one's fellow-schoolboys. A boy who 
was guilty of such an act at school would probably 
end by being a criminal when he went out into the 
larger world. The seeds of depravity were already 
sown ; the tree whose early shoots were thus 
blemished would probably be found to be rotten 
when it grew up ; and for such trees and for such 
noxious growths there could only be one fate 
to be cut down and cast into the unquenchable fire ! 
In Hart Minor's half-term report, which was sent 
home to his parents, it was stated that he had 
been found guilty of the meanest and grossest 
dishonesty, and that should it occur again he would 
be first punished and finally expelled. 



XXIV 
THE STAR 



287 



HE had long ago retired from public life, and in 
his Tuscan villa, where he now lived quite 
alone, seldom seeing his friends, he never regretted 
the strenuous days of his activity. He had done 
his work well ; he had been more than a competent 
public servant ; as Pro-Consul he proved a pillar 
of strength to the State, a man whose name at one 
time was on men's lips as having left plenty where 
he had found dearth, and order and justice where 
corruption, oppression, and anarchy, had once run 
riot. His retirement had been somewhat of a 
surprise to his friends, for although he was ripe in 
years, his mental powers were undiminished and 
his body was active and vigorous. But his with- 
drawal from public life was due not so much to 
fatigue or to a longing for leisure as to a lack of 
sympathy, which he felt to be growing stronger 
and stronger as the years went by, with the manners 
and customs, the mode of thought, and the manner 
of living of the new world and the new generation 
which was growing up around him. Nurtured as 
he had been in the old school and the strong tradi- 
tions which taught an austere simplicity of life, 
a contempt for luxury and show, he was bewildered 
and saddened by the rapid growth of riches, the 



/ 



2Q0 THE STAR 

shameless worship of wealth, the unrestrained 
passion for amusement at all costs, the thirst for 
new sensations, and the ostentatious airs of the 
youth of the day, who seemed to be born dis- 
illusioned and whose palates were jaded before 
they knew the taste of food. He found much to 
console him in literature, not only in the literature 
of the past but in the literature of his day, but here 
again he was beset with misgivings and haunted 
by forebodings. He felt that the State had reached 
its zenith both in material prosperity and intellectual 
achievement, and that all the future held in reserve 
was decline and decay. This thought was ever 
present with him ; in the vast extension of empire 
he foresaw the inevitable disintegration, and he 
wondered in a melancholy fashion what would be 
the fate of mankind when the Empire, dismembered 
and rotten, should become the prey of the 
Barbarians. 

It was in the winter of the second year after his 
retirement that his melancholy increased to a pitch 
of almost intolerable heaviness. That winter was 
an extraordinarily mild one, and even during the 
coldest month he strolled every evening after he 
had supped on the terrace walk which was before 
the portico. He was strolling one night on the 
terrace pondering on the fate of mankind, and more 
especially on the life if there was such a thing 
beyond the grave. He was not a superstitious man, 



THE STAR 291 

but, saturated with tradition, he was a scrupulous 
observer of religious feast, custom, and ritual. 
He had lately been disturbed by what he considered 
to be an ill-favoured omen. One night it was 
twelve nights ago he reckoned the statues of 
Pan and Apollo, standing in his dining-room, 
which was at the end of the portico, had fallen 
to the ground without any apparent cause and 
had been shattered into fragments. And it had 
seemed to him that the crash of this accident was 
immediately followed by a low and prolonged wail, 
which appeared to come from nowhere in particular 
and yet to fill the world ; the noise of the moan had 
seemed to be quite close to him, and as it died 
away its echo had seemed to be miles and miles 
distant. He thought it had been a hullacination, 
but that same night a still stranger thing happened. 
After the accident, which had wakened the whole 
household, he had been unable to go to sleep again, 
and he had gone from his sleeping chamber into an 
adjoining room, and, lighting a lamp, had taken 
down and read out of the " Iliad " of Homer. 
After he had been reading for about half an hour 
he heard a voice calling him very distinctly by his 
name, but as soon as the sound had ceased he 
was not quite certain whether he had heard it or 
not. At that moment one of his slaves, who had 
been born in the East, entered the room and asked 
him what he required, saying that he had heard 



2Q2 THE STAR 

his master calling loudly. What these signs and 
portents signified he had no idea ; perhaps, he 
mused, they mean my own death, which is of no 
consequence ; or perhaps which may the Fates 
forfend some disaster to an absent friend or even 
to the State. But so far and twelve days had 
passed since he had seen these strange manifesta- 
tions he had received no news which confirmed 
his fears. 

As he was thus musing he looked up at the sky, 
and he noticed the presence of a new and unfamiliar 
star, which he had never seen before. He was a 
close observer of the heavens and learned in 
astronomy, and he felt quite certain that he had 
never seen this star before. It was a star of peculiar 
radiance, large and white almost blue in its white- 
ness it shone in the East, and seemed to put all 
the other stars to shame by its overwhelming 
radiance and purity. While he was thus gazing 
at the star it seemed to him as though a great 
darkness had come upon the world. He heard a 
low muttering sound as of a distant earthquake, 
and this was quickly followed by the tramping of 
innumerable armies. He knew that the end had 
come. It is the Barbarians, he thought, who have 
already conquered the world. Rome has fallen 
never to rise again ; Rome has shared the fate of 
Troy and Carthage, of Babylon, and Memphis ; 
Rome is a name in an old wife's tale ; and little 



THE STAR 293 

savage children shall be given our holy trophies 
for playthings, and shall use our ruined temples 
and our overthrown palaces as their playground. 
And so sharp was the vividness of his vision that 
he wondered what would happen to his villa, and 
whether or no the Barbarians would destroy the 
image of Ceres on the terrace, which he especially 
cherished, not for its beauty but because it had 
belonged to his father and to his grandfather before 
him. 

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

Then, just when he thought the heavy footsteps 
had reached the approach of his villa, the vision 
changed. The noise of tramping ceased, and 
through the thick darkness there pierced the radiance 
of the star : the strange star he had seen that 



294 THE STAR 

night. The world seemed to awake from a dark 
slumber. The ruins rose from the dust and took 
once more a stately shape, even lordlier than before. 
Rome had risen from the dead, and once more she 
dominated the world like a starry diadem. Before 
him he seemed to see the pillars and the portals 
of a huge temple, more splendid and gorgeous than 
the Temples of Caesar. The gates were wide open, 
and from within came a blare of trumpets. He 
saw a kneeling multitude ; and soldiers with shin- 
ing breastplates, far taller than the legionaries of 
Caesar, were keeping a way through the dense 
crowd, while the figure of an aged man was it 
the Pontifex Maximus, he wondered ? was borne 
aloft in a chair over their heads. 

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

In the corner lay a woman, and in her arms was 
a child and his face shone like the sun and lit up the 
whole place, in which there were neither torches 
nor lamp. The door of the manger was ajar, and 



THE STAR 295 

through it he saw the sky and the strange star still 
shining brightly. He heard a voice, the same voice 
which he had heard twelve nights before ; but the 
voice was not calling him, it was singing a song, 
and the song was as it were a part of a larger 
music, a symphony of clear voices, more joyous 
and different from anything he had ever heard. 

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



XXV 
CHUN WA 



To Henry de C. Ward 



27 



HIS name was Chun Wa ; possibly there was 
some more of it, but that is all I can re- 
member He was about four or five years old, 
and I made his acquaintance the day we arrived 
at the temple. It was at the end of September. 
We had left Mukden in order to take part in what 
they said was going to be a great battle. I don't 
know what the village was called at which we arrived 
on the second day of our march. I can only re- 
member that it was a beautiful and deliciously 
quiet spot, and that we established ourselves in a 
temple ; that is to say not actually in the temple 
itself, but in the house of the priest. He was a 
Buddhist who looked after the deities of the place, 
which were made of carved and painted wood, and 
lived in a small pagoda. The building consisted 
of three quadrangles surrounded by a high stone 
wall. The first of these quadrangles, which you 
entered from the road, reminded me of the yard 
in front of any farm. There was a good deal of 
straw lying about, some broken ploughshares, 
buckets, wooden bowls, spades, and other imple- 
ments of toil. A few hens hurried about searching 
for grains here and there ; a dog was sleeping in 
the sun. At the further end of the yard a yellow 

299 



300 CHUN WA 

cat seemed to have set aside a space for its ex- 
clusive use. This farmyard was separated from 
the next quadrangle by the house of the priest, 
which occupied the whole of the second enclosure ; 
that is to say the living rooms extended right 
round the quadrangle, leaving a square and open 
space in the centre. The part of the house which 
separated the second quadrangle from the next 
consisted solely of a roof supported by pillars, 
making an open verandah, through which from the 
second enclosure you saw into the third. The 
third enclosure was a garden, consisting of a square 
grass plot and some cypress trees. At the further 
end of the garden was the temple itself. 

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

The owner of the house had two sons. One of 
them, aged about thirteen, had something to do 
with the temple services, and wore a kind of tunic 
made of white silk. The second was Chun Wa. 



CHUN WA 301 

It was when the sentry went on guard that we first 
made the acquaintance of Chun Wa. His cheeks 
were round and fat, and his face seemed to bulge 
out towards the base. His little eyes were soft 
and brown and twinkled like onyxes. His tiny 
little hands were most beautifully shaped, and this 
child moved about the farmyard with the dignity 
of an Emperor and the serenity of a great Pontiff. 
Gravely and without a smile he watched the 
Cossacks unharnessing their horses, lighting a 
fire and arranging the officers ' kit. 

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

The Cossack smiled on Chun Wa and called him 
by a long list of endearing diminutives, but Chun 
Wa took no notice, and retired into the inner part 
of the house as if he had determined to pay no more 
attention to the barbarous intruders. The next 
day, however, curiosity got the better of him, and 
he could not resist inspecting the yard, and observ- 
ing the doings of the foreign devils. And one of 
the Cossacks his name was Lieskov and he looked 



302 CHUN WA 

after my mule made friends with Chun Wa. 
He made friends with him by playing with the dog. 
The dog, like most Chinese dogs, was dirty, dis- 
trustful, and not used to being played with ; he 
slunk away if you called him, and if you took any 
notice of him he evidently expected to be beaten, 
kicked, or to have stones thrown at him. He was 
too thin to be eaten. But Lieskov tamed the dog 
and taught him how to play, and the big Cossack 
used to roll on the ground while the dog pretended 
to bite him, until Chun Wa forgot his dignity, his 
contempt, and his superior culture, and smiled. 
I remember coming home that very afternoon from 
a short stroll with one of the officers, and we found 
Lieskov lying fast asleep in the farmyard right 
across the steps of the door through which we 
wanted to go, and Chun Wa and the dog were 
sitting beside him. We woke him up and the 
officer asked him why he had gone to sleep. 

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

After that Chun Wa made friends with every- 
body, officers and men, and he ruled the battery 
like an autocrat. He ruled by charm and a thousand 
winning ways. But his special friend was Lieskov, 
who carried the child about on his back, performed 
many droll antics to amuse him, and taught him 
words of pidgin Russian. Among other things he 



CHUN WA 303 

made him a kite a large and beautiful kite out 
of an old piece of yellow silk, shaped like a butterfly. 
And Chun Wa's brother flew this kite with wonderful 
skill, so that it looked like a glittering golden bird 
hovering in the air. 

I forget how long we stayed at this temple, 

whether it was three days or four days ; possibly 

it was not so long, but it seemed like many months, 

or rather it seemed at the same time very long and 

very short, like a pleasant dream. The weather 

was so soft and so fine, the sunshine so bright, 

the air so still, that had not the nights been chilly 

we should never have dreamt that it was autumn. 

It seemed rather as though the spring had been 

unburied and had returned to the earth by mistake. 

And all this time fighting was going on to the east 

of us. The battle of Sha-Ho had begun, but we 

were in the reserve, in what they called the deepest 

reserve, and we heard no sound of firing, neither 

did we receive any news of it. We seemed to be 

sheltered from the world in an island of dreamy 

lotus-eating ; and the only noise that reached us 

was the sound of the tinkling gongs of the temple. 

We lived a life of absolute indolence, getting up 

with the sun, eating, playing cards, strolling about 

on the plains where the millet had now been reaped, 

eating again and going to bed about nine o'clock 

in the evening. Our chief amusement was to talk 

with Chun Wa and to watch the way in which he 



304 CHUN WA 

treated the Cossacks, who had become his humble 
slaves. I am sure there was not one of the men 
who would not have died gladly for Chun Wa. 

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

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



CHUN WA 305 

river, took part in another action, and then a great 
stillness came. The battle was practically over. 
The advance of the enemy had ceased, and we were 
ordered to go to a certain place. 

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

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



3 o6 CHUN WA 

coolie. The dog, the cat, and the hens had all 
gone. 

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



TURNBULL AND SPEARS, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH 



THREE IMPORTANT BOOKS 



BRITISH MOUNTAIN CLIMBS. 

By GEORGE D. ABRAHAM, Author of "The Complete 
Mountaineer," Member of the Climber's Club, The Swiss 
Alpine Club, etc., etc. Fcap. 8vo. Waterproof Cloth. 
7s. 6d. net. 

This is a much-needed, concise pocket guide to all the 
rock-climbs in England, Wales, and Scotland, including 
Skye. In short, an expert tells exactly where, what and 
how to climb in Britain. Practically all the courses up- 
to-date are dealt with in such a practical manner as to be 
useful to climbers actually at work on the crags. 

The book will be well illustrated, and contain a valuable 
and complete set of line drawings with the routes marked 
thereon. 

HOME LIFE IN IRELAND. 

By ROBERT LYND. Demy 8vo. 7s. 6d. net. 

This will be a book dealing with Irish facts, manners 
and customs in a more comprehensive and intimate style 
than has hitherto been attempted. It is written from the 
inside, not the outside point of view, and will begin by 
showing that the ordinary idea of an Irishman is at total 
variance with the truth. It will go on to describe Irish 
farm life, marriages, funerals, food, the Irish sense of 
humour, Irish servants, priests, and persons, etc., and, in 
fact, will touch upon practically every phase of Irish life, 
and will contain chapters even on the new national spirit 
and on politics and politicians. The book will be fully 
illustrated. 

THE SIX HANDICAP GOLFER. 

By Two of his Kind. Fully Illustrated. Crown 8to. 
5s. net. 



MILLS & BOON, Ltd. 
49 WHITCOMB STREET, LONDON, W.C. 



TWO BOOKS FOR CHILDREN 



THE CHILDREN'S STORY OF WEST- 
MINSTER ABBEY. 

By Miss G. E. TROUTBECK, Author of "Westminster 
Abbey" (Little Guides). With Four Photogravure Plates 
and Twenty-four Illustrations from Photographs. Crown 8yo. 
5s. net. 

This book is intended to help children to realise the 
connection of Westminster Abbey with the various epochs 
of English History. It is not a guide to the monuments 
and antiquities of the Church, which are only incidentally 
mentioned in it, but it tries to dwell on those features in 
the Abbey history which are likely to be interesting to 
children, and which may explain how the Abbey has 
gradually become the central Church of the Empire and 
nation. 

THE CHILDREN'S STORY OF THE BEE. 

By S. L. BENSUSAN, Author of "Wild Life Stories." 
Fully Illustrated by C. Moore Park. Crown 8vo. 5s. net. 

The volume is written in the interests of children, and 
the author endeavours to put the story of the Bee before 
a youthful audience as fully and as completely as is 
possible under the circumstances. He traces the life of a 
working Bee from the time it is in the egg to the time 
when it dies, worn out at the age of six weeks or two 
months. The volume is fully illustrated. 



Please write for a Prospectus of the above Books 



MILLS & BOON, Ltd. 
49 WHITCOMB STREET, LONDON, W.C. 



THIS BOOK IS DUE ON THE LAST DATE 
STAMPED BELOW 



AN INITIAL FINE OF 25 CENTS 

WILL BE ASSESSED FOR FAILURE TO RETURN 
THIS BOOK ON THE DATE DUE. THE PENALTY 
WILL INCREASE TO 50 CENTS ON THE FOURTH 
DAY AND TO $1.00 ON THE SEVENTH DAY 
OVERDUE. 



:: - I 






Nov 17 ^36 y 



AtiTODf kcar M /iR22'93 



s- 



p- 



jK-tfB 



AUG .1319*7 






~^0 



7>^- 



J Li. 



*Qi* 



rf5ft 







APR i 7 1956 LU 



WARl^W 



LD 21-100m-8 '34 



YB 59638 



U.C.BERKELEY LIBRARIES 




CDL4255QL47D 






. 




874306 



THE UNIVERSITY OF CAUFORNI A LIBRARY